How Hi Def Could Save the World

By Cam Mather


No really, I love television! And I watch a lot of it. Well at least at this time of the year I do. Sorry to burst the burst the bubble for those of you who have this dreamy little image of homesteaders who spend their candle-lit evenings huddled by the fire, hand-making guitars which they then strum while they grow a beard. Not here. Oh I have a guitar, but it was made by some other Canadian. And while our woodstove is definitely one of the main attractions in the living room of our century-old farmhouse, so is our TV. And I love watching it.

I meet so many people who dismiss TV. They say it’s for morons and philistines. They just don’t have any time to watch it. For much of the year I might agree with them. But at this time of year when it gets dark by 5 o’clock there’s not much I can do outside. And if I try to sit and read in the evenings, I’m nodding off by about 7:30. But heck, I can stay up all night watching TV! It’s like a free stay awake drug! It should come with addiction warnings.

I bought a new TV at last year’s Boxing Day clearance sales for a great price. It’s a 32” Sony HD and while it was certainly better than the 28-year-old 14” TV that it replaced, I had a feeling that I still wasn’t getting the whole HD effect. Then I noticed that there were a few channels that weren’t coming in at all and when I called our service provider they blamed my old receiver. So last month I ordered a new high-definition receiver and when I got it hooked up it was like Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus began playing in my head because I couldn’t believe how much the quality of the picture improved. Now I know why TV people wear so much makeup, because it’s like their face is right there in my living room. And those news clips with people who aren’t wearing any makeup can be downright scary!

I’ve watched some football games and it’s like I’m right down on the field in the huddle! “Hey Polamalu, get a haircut!” See how brave I am when Troy is just on TV!

We are also now able to watch A&E, which has no shortage of shows about hoarders. In fact, a bunch of networks have shows about hoarders! Holy crap, who knew there were so many hoarders? And frankly, I’d rather not be seeing the dead cats and cockroaches and rats in High Def. I spend a lot of time with my hand hiding my eyes to avoid this stuff.

I am really enjoying programs about other places. Shows like NOVA and stuff on The National Geographic Network or Discovery are just unbelievable. It’s like you’re there! I watched a NOVA show on what’s happening with the ice in Antarctica and it was just stunning. Depressing of course, but stunning. A 32” screen isn’t big by modern TV standards, but I am really blown away by the quality when you watch it in high-definition. It’s like I’m there but without having to fly to get there, or freeze my butt off. Yes, someone else flew there to film it, but if all the people who fly places to see new things just got a high-definition travel channel, we might be able to turn this thing around.

And clearly we need to turn this around. The other night Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News (his purple tie was hurting my eyes in high-def) asked Jim Cantori from the Weather Channel about the mild winter so many of us are experiencing. People in New York walking around in shorts and T-shirts, no snow in many places on the prairies, frost in Florida… specifically Brian asked, “Jeff is there more to this than meets the eye?” In other words I think he was asking, “Is this what climate change looks like?” And of course, like any politically correct American weatherperson Jim provided this convoluted explanation of how this shouldn’t be another El Nino year, and how the jet stream just wasn’t pushing down from the north, blah blah blah but he never really answered the question. In typical  style he blamed Canada and said it was because the cold air that should be pushing the Jet Stream further south, wasn’t. It was like we have this big doomsday machine up here in Canada that we use to control the weather or something. No, wait, we do … it’s called the Tar Sands.

I am enthralled with my high-definition channels. I’m finding that if there’s marginal shows on all the networks I’ll default to a high-definition station. I’ve suddenly got CNN in high-def and I’ve learned more about the Iowa Caucus than any Canadian should ever know.

There was a tragedy in Washington State recently when an Iraq war veteran killed a Park Warden at Mt. Rainer Park. Michelle and I visited Mount Rainier on our honeymoon trip almost 30 years ago. We spent our honeymoon driving across Canada and down the west coast of the U.S. It was unbelievably beautiful. I’m blurry in all of the photos because I had to set the camera at the bottom of some mountain stream and run to get in to the shot before the self-timer went off. I would absolutely love to jump in my car today and re-do that wonderful drive. But then I realize that I’ve romanticized much of our trip and how 30 years ago every town seemed unique. If we did the drive now, every town will look the same with the same fast food strip as you drive into and out of it, and I’ll just spend the whole time ranting about it. It’s just so much better to let someone else hike around these exotic places and get wet and bitten by bugs and I’ll just sit in my chair and wonder at it all, in high-def, just like I’m there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to leave a permanent impression of my butt on the La-Z-Boy chair and never leave my living room. I heat with wood. I leave my house at some point every day to go out in to the woods to cut firewood for next year. And I support myself by growing food, and in a few months my TV watching will come to an end. But right now I’m loving it. Tonight I get to watch The Ice Road Truckers head down to Bolivia and drive along this deadly road hacked into the side of a mountain and if they make one wrong move it’s game over. It’s so awesome! I am never going to fly to Bolivia, but I’ll be there tonight in zero-carbon living color!

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7 Responses to “How Hi Def Could Save the World”

  • Thanks everyone for the feedback. And yes, I’d love to find some of those off the interstate towns to explore.

    As to Deb’s question about the power consumption, our old 20″? JVC TV drew about 70 Watts and the new 32″ LCD about 120 Watts. I was always surprised by how little the old drew considering it was massive and had all those vacuum tubes and stuff in it. TV consumption used to worry me but as I’ve learned more about our power consumption and we’ve upgraded our PV and batteries I don’t worry as much about it. Although it’s inversely related to the seasons… ie in the summer when we have the most power we’re in the gardens and don’t watch as much TV as we do in the winter when there’s sunshine.

  • Deb:

    How do you find the power consumption of your new HD tv compared to you old one?

  • I’m also a big football fan and it sounds like I’ve been missing out on this HD quality. I always learn something new here. Sometimes the most surprising things. Go Packers!

  • Connie Murray:

    I love TV too! I can’t believe I wrote that for all the world to see! What I really love is the “smart” TV my husband bought as his birthday present. The best part is we can download movies directly from Netflix. See exactly what we want to watch, when we’ve got time to watch it without waiting for the mail to deliver the disc. No more late fees, no more trips to the video store. Catch up on favorite series, etc. Now I only watch exactly what interests me and don’t waste time or energy or money on stuff I don’t really like. Actually its turned out to be a present for all of us.

  • Cathy:

    That is genuine reality TV.

  • Cathy:

    Today, here in Tacoma Washington, was the Memorial Service for our National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson, killed in the line of duty by that sicko. I watched every tear in HiDef and you too could have watched it too on NW Cable News in your Lazy Boy on your HiDef flat screen TV.

  • Well its not exactly o carbon. Someone had to use petroleum to make the tv and someone had to fly it to a location so you could buy it not to mention I bet you drove in to pick it up. However my Sony is bigger than your Sony nana nana na na! LOL! As far as all those towns looking the same on the west coast, ya just gotta get off the interstate. And you don’t have to go too far off to get to some beautiful country. If you ever decide to do that trip again come and visit us on our island. Go see the San Juans, Mt.Rainier,(again)the North Cascades hi way, Olympic Peninsula, the Washington and Oregon Coast and Leavenworth. It’s still worth the trip.

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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