Sunday, May 18, 2008

The aftermath of Big Screen TV

Time has convinced me of one thing. Television is for appearing on, not looking at. ~Noel Coward

JAN: I’m not normally a visual person. Like a lot of writers, I live inside my head. But I’ve got it worse. I walk into rooms and don’t see the décor, can completely miss someone’s new haircut, and have been known to not even notice that it’s been raining all week.

But that’s only in real life.

About two years ago, my husband installed a new television. I say “installed” because it's not actually a television, but a projector screen that rolls down from the ceiling. It’s about eight feet wide and five feet tall. And we have high definition, which mean everything isn’t just large, it’s crystal clear.

And this is changing me. And not for the better, either. In fact, I’m slowly becoming the most superficial person on the planet. I find myself watching a really educational, thought-provoking PBS documentary, with this takeaway: What's with the bad teeth? Aren’t PBS academic experts educated about orthodontia, too? Are they chosen for their bad teeth? Is that a sign of intellectualism?

It’s not just PBS specials. I now notice everything, everywhere. I notice that in the Coors commercial where they catch the “cold train,” every single person spilling out of the office building is uniformly attractive. No one stands out, but no one is below that American standard.
It's as if youth, perfect, but unexciting features and a flawless complexion were part of the occupancy permit for the building they are fleeing.

But worst is baseball. Probably because the game is so slow and because I’ve watched pretty much every single Red Sox game, I’ve actually ranked the players in terms of attractiveness. Two categories: position players and pitchers. Adjusted as players are traded or put on the DL. And this is pure HD superficiality. No bias: the ranking does not correlate to my favorite players.
So this is my question: Am I the only one out there being corrupted by big screen HD television, or has anyone else noticed that they are noticing what should go unnoticed?

HALLIE: Well, I do love to be petty, so if I HAD a large screen TV, I’m sure I’d be counting zits along with you, Jan.

But I was the last person in Massachusetts to get…a tape deck, a CD player, a video player, a DVD player, a microwave oven, a cell phone (and I still have my first which is now an antique at 8 years old)…so it should come as no surprise that I do not have HDTV. A) I’m cheap, and B) the 18”-TV we have works fine and C) I do not want to dedicate a room in my smallish house to watching the tube (have you noticed, those things are seriously BIG).

When my friends George and Barbara got an HDTV, they had us over to watch football in high def (see, I do know the lingo) and George kept switching back to regular to say “See how amazing the detail is?” I saw, but I confess I didn’t get why that was so great. But then, I can't tell a good sound system from a crummy one, either.

Just drove by where they’re tearing down the multiplex cinema in that’s been in Dedham for decades. Certainly movie theaters and the whole experience of seeing a movie with a community of viewers is a casualty of those massive home entertainment systems.

RO: I'm the wrong person to ask...I still have a manual lawn mower.I don't have HDTV either. I have a big old tv from 12 yrs ago that works fine and is huge so I get that movie theatre feel. (We watched No Country for Old Men last night and I saw quite enough of Javier Barden's psycho face thank you very much.)People ALWAYS say it's great for sports...does it make the balls any bigger?

JAN: I hate to admit it, but the big TV is really great for sports. You can see the ball, the tatoos, the rivulets of sweat. You also get well acquainted with the faces of season fans who sit behind home plate and start to notice when someone is a no-show. But as far as movies go, I can get equally drawn into the story on the big screen or a tiny 18-inch with marginal reception.

ROBERTA: Obviously, you have a group of techno-phobes here Jan! My husband and I have been arguing this one for the last year. All his buddies watch sports on enormous HDTV screens and he wants one too. In fact, he says everyone's got to change over come the end of the year. (Is that even true?) In our case, it would require ripping out the custom-built bookshelves with the perfectly-sized TV cubby. So I'm holding out--I can be just as shallow as the next girl and who needs more of that?
HANK: Yeah, I'm all about TV, and we don't have hi def either. (We do, however, go to our best pals' house next door and watch sports on HD. And it's--amazing. I love it.) (And ha ha, Ro.)
But listen gang, soon I've gotta see my face on it. But here's what I'm hoping. Everyone says TV adds ten pounds and ten years. And it does. But HD doesn't. So we're all buying dermablend make-up (ultra-coverage but sheer), and crossing our fingers.

(So Jan, you're saying you now judge people on TV by how they look? Ha. Most people have been doing that for years. Just read Prime Time.)

Roberta, nope, tell your (adorable) husband you do NOT have to change to HD! Thing is, next February, we all have to switch to digital tv. But most people won't have to do anything. And if you do, it can be free. I'm doing a story about it right now, so I do know the scoop. Any questions?


  1. Being a Techno person I have to weigh-in on this one, too.

    When I bought a small 43" "big screen" TV in Jan. 2000, my wife said, "Oh, hi def is coming." To which I waved my hand - "Honey, this is a ten year plan." She looked confused. "Ten years?"

    Anything that the govt gets involved in, you can bet is long term. If anything is "wrong" with the US, it's big govt. I can tell you, it's worse then most of the big corporations.

    I started working on solving automotvie side impact in 1983. The first side impact regulation, FVMSS 214, was not scheduled to require full vehicle fleet compliance until 1996. Almost 14 years after I began my research. And, even now it's been over 10 years before increased protection is required.

    So, as of Feb of 2009 I will have fulfilled my 10 year program. Just in time to get one of them there beauti-ful HD TV's.

    As far as the high contrast and high pixel resolution go, technically that is awesome. I remember passing a display in Best Buy. As I stared at the new fangled device, it felt like I was looking through someone's front window on the planes of Africa. I will say it was awesome. Spooky actually, because the line between fantasy and reality was blurred for me.

    So, yes, Hank, new fangled picture technology will require new fangled beauty technology.

    Until, next year I will still be living in the dark ages of 400 line resolution "old Big Screen TV"!!!


  2. Hey Mike,
    Being a techno person, and seeming to be very knowledgeable on this topic, do you have an opinion or thoughts on why big screen TV, in general, seems to appeal to men more than women?

  3. Jan -

    Anything visual and bigger than yours appeals to all men :-)! Even at the subliminal level.

    Opps - I may be telling more about myself than I want to!

    Personally, I'm fascinated by technology. Although, I am a value shopper. I want the most technology for the least cost.

    Even if your chainsaw is 5 more cc's but my smaller one will make 5 more cuts per tank, I'll take the one 2 cc's smaller even it it takes 15 more seconds on a 1 min cut. If I were a pro at that I'd think differently.

    I bought the big screen because I consult also and on many occasions studied crash video on the big screen. Even in low res - with 3 or more people we all could see more. That chainsaw was better for me at time because I really needed the extra size.

    You know, boils down to - do you really need a TV to begin with. I think, as I said initially, women need much less visual stimulation to function. So, to me HDTV is a natural extension of the need to refine that visual process.


  4. >>Anything visual and bigger than yours appeals to all men :-)!<<
    Love that comment, Mike...

    Now to what I'm really interested in. Dermablend makeup? Hank??? Curious minds need to know!

  5. I bought the Dermablend but thought it was a little cakey. Have you tried Cle de Peau?
    ..who's imagining those little rivulets of sweat running down Raphael Nadal's arms and thinking of going hi def...

  6. Hey Mike,
    I will likely quote you on Friday, when I take on the same topic on the blog: why men are so drawn to big screen television and why women, (unless they've seen those rivulets of sweat on Nadal's biceps) don't seem to care.

  7. Jan -

    Whatever helps the cause! You've got my support, that's for sure.

    I told my wife about this discussion and I could tell by the look on her face she definitely had an opinion.

    She said she thinks men are more intrigued with technology.

    I certainly am and she works with a bunch of engineers. So that could bias her.

    Just to evaluate an HD screen there are so many details in the specifications. So, it is complicated and there is much to enjoy. In a way, it's like wine or coffee, two favorites of mine. All the nuances contribute to the end effect.

    What makes an HD screen good. Resolution - 1080p, high contrast ratio - ratio of the brightest bright to the darkest dark- I'd like at least 10,000/1. Color rendition and colorimetric calibration of the chroma circuits affects the ability to convey true color. Lossless mathematical compression of any digital circuitry to assist in digital image throughput. Physical spectral distribution of the actual light flux to the screen surface, pixel arrangement... LCD vs. plasma...

    Shall I go on?

    At the end of day, if you know what specs to look at - I can tell you what your viewing experience will be.

    The average viewer will say - Wow that picture looks good. However, at a metaphysical level what is actually going on is at a much different level. The male knows he is looking at the best there is. And there's a certain satisfaction in that. It's like chosing a wife - a male wants the best there is - at least in the moment :-)!!! And of course the vagaries of the human spirit predominate. Pretty soon, this too shall pass.

    Perhaps that's the key - women - look at the meaning of things longer term. Actually, that stikes a chord in me. For the most part, men are evanescent in their judgments and perceptions. Women are smart enough to know apriori - this too shall pass. That being the case - "What's to get excited about."

    It's a freakin' TV already!


  8. Dermablend--you have to use it very very sparingly, and put it on with your thumb instead of a brush or sponge. The make up person told me the warmth of your skin makes it go one more smoothly, and be less cakey.

    (You know it's that very heavy stuff that's usually used to cover big blemishes, like a birthmark. For HD, you use a tiny tiny application. For extra coverage without the heaviness.)

    In real life with it on, you look like you really aren't wearing makeup..but it covers very well. HD is about 'less is more' when it comes to makeup, because the camera is so unforgiving, it sees everything. Like caked-on fake cheekbones.

    There's also spray-on makeup, like air brush stuff. It's fantastic. But scary to use. I've only had it from a makeup person, and it's terrific.

    Stuff you need to know.

  9. Check out Jan's new cover on the blog book display!

    Fabulous...and soon, Jan, you'll have to blog about it!

  10. A few weeks ago, I came back home from a week in Kentucky to find ::Voila!:: a big screen HDTV on top of the sideboard! Hello -- and goodbye -- Economic Stimulus Check!

    But, probably due to my photography & TV background, I can see a Big Difference in the picture. I can also hear a Big Difference in the new updated audio system that we had to get to go with the HDTV.

    It's so realistic sounding that, if I'm in another room while my husband is watching TV, I get faked out by the audio and believe that glass really did break.

  11. Hi Rhonda,
    Yes, I get fooled by the surround sound all the time! Sometimes it kind of freaks me out! But I have become spoiled by the big screen for sports viewing!