A new digital television set has all the trappings

Published 9:13 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A new TV?

As Little Miss Muffet might say, “No whey.”

“Dick and Jane” textbooks, published from 1930 to 1965, featured stories about a family and its home life, including the well-known characters of Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff. I read “Dick and Jane” books when I was in grade school. The books taught me how important it is to look. Page after page told me to look. “Look, Jane! Look!” Dick would advise sagely.

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A philosopher named Wittgenstein counseled, “Don’t think, just look.” He was no Dick or Jane, but he was good. He might have been talking about television.

The poet William Henry Davies wrote, “What is this life if, full of care, we have not time to stand and stare?”

I followed the advice of Dick, Jane, Wittgenstein, and Davies, while ignoring Little Miss Muffet, and bought a new TV set. I needed something to look at because my fireplace had flown south for the winter.

The old TV set was older than dirt and had become an eye test. I went in search of a TV with a prescription screen. A bigger TV was a good idea, as it was too easy to misplace the old one.

I knew that I had to go digital. Why? Just because, that’s why! Apparently, the change from analog to digital makes it possible for the government to sell some of the broadcast spectrum and use the proceeds to bail out national banks and investment companies.

I bought a new 40-inch job that equals the combined size of all the TV sets I’ve owned in my life. I think it’s huge, but many will consider it a portable, the perfect size for use in a fish house.

A skilled technician installed the TV — an integrated, high definition, LCD, Dolby, digital contraption illustrated by many numbers that probably mean something. The only number that meant anything to me was the price tag. I lost a couple of inches around my wallet, but now I have a TV that slices, dices, chops, and grates. It even makes julienne fries. It could raise children.

I could have hooked it up myself, but that would have been like sewing a button on soup. Men and owner’s manuals are like trains. They should never meet.

I turned the set on. It’s the first TV I have ever had that didn’t come equipped with rabbit ears. I will miss fine-tuning the tinfoil crimped onto the rabbit ears. The TV runs off an old antenna mounted on a tower alongside the house. The antenna spins like a weather vane in the wind. Nobody wants to climb the tower to repair it.

The new TV has a sleep timer and I can adjust the size of the picture. I purchased a DVD recorder, too. Even though the same company made the recorder and the TV, they don’t get along. I need to use two remotes. It is a full-time job to keep from losing one of the remotes. I’ve had to hire a private eye to tail one of the remotes. I was once a remote. Back when things took forever, it was my boyhood job. I would get my orders from an adult and rise from the floor. As a kid, that is where I watched TV — from the floor. I would trudge three miles uphill to the TV, manually change the channel, and then walk three miles uphill back to the my spot on the floor. That was in the good old days when a TV came with its own physical fitness program.

The new TV has too many doodads and whatchamacallits. It should come with training wheels.

It’s too good to use, but we’ll watch it. You don’t fill a car with gas unless you expect to drive it. TV plays a big part in the lives of most people — too big. One year, I expect to receive a Christmas card with a photo of a family gathered around a big screen TV.

The TV receives many channels. The first TV my family owned picked up three channels. Each carried a lot of snow, went off the air every night, and began the day with a test pattern that was supposed to be a way that the picture could be adjusted, but was nothing more than a method of adding frustration to a viewer’s life.

I still can’t read the credits and the commercials are still too loud, but it could be worse. I saw a young man watching a TV show on his iPod. He was squinting like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. The guy needs a 40-inch iPod.

Watching TV is a good thing. It gives me something to do while I’m napping on the sofa.

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.