Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

Remember when “Lost” was a about a group of plane crash survivors trying to get off an island? How quaint. In it’s fifth season, a core group of characters came unstuck in time, travelling back and forth between decades, and finally settling in the 70s, which they attempted to wipe from history by detonating a hydrogen bomb over a pocket of electromagnetic energy. Or perhaps they were still just trying to get off the island.

Either way, reality was ripped in two, and season six started with most of the major characters living double lives, literally as well as unwittingly. After eight months of expectation and heated debate, the Cady household watched the season premier, and I noticed that the teenagers were quite bemused. I was soaking up the paradox and they were scratching their heads, ironic since their synapses are supposed to be firing a lot more quickly than mine are these days. Whatever they had imagined they would see, “Lost” seemed to be going in a completely different direction. How typical.

Maybe you noticed something similar in your house, or maybe you were the one who roared, “first time travel, and now this?!”, to no one in particular. If “Lost” seems even more confusing and disorienting than ever, then maybe a few familiar frames of reference will help get you back to your comfort zone.

If fictional time travel has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t muck around with the past. The ramifications of such an action were explained by Doc Brown in “Back to the future Part II”, in which old Biff, in 2015, steals a sports almanac from 1985, then travels back to 1955 and gives the almanac to young Biff who proceeds to make a killing in gambling on sporting events to which he already has the results. As Doc Brown explained to Marty, using nothing more elaborate than a chalk board, this creates a divergence in the time stream starting in 1955, resulting in time branching off into a separate, parallel reality, in which Biff kills Marty’s father, marries his (Marty’s) mother, and owns Hill Valley. Simple, right?

Another example of the ramifications of mucking around with the past was demonstrated by the well known explorer and philosopher Homer Simpson. Some of you may remember his pioneering work in time-travel technology when he repaired a toaster in such a way that it allowed him to travel back millions of years, at least until the toast popped up. You may also recall that the seemingly insignificant act of swatting a fly resulted in Christian fundamentalist Flanders becoming the supreme leader of the world, or at least of America, which equates to the same thing in the mind of many Americans.

So you see, while “Lost may have upped the ante, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been touched on in other serious works of speculative fiction. If you still need help finding a comfort zone from which you can relax and enjoy the E ticket ride, try repeating this mantra:

“Lost” is only a TV programme.

It’s a great one, but it is only a TV programme.

If you are considering purchasing an HD TV, don’t. Or do, but don’t expect it to be the last TV you buy this decade. It’s your wallet.

I bought a TV five or six years ago. A 32” inch Sony WEGA, one of the last of the cathode ray tube jobs. I was well aware that technology was changing, but I didn’t care. In fact, there are only two occasions when I regretted this purchase: once when I moved house, and once when I had to bring it to the shop. That’s because the TV weighs slightly more than a Mini Cooper, and is only slightly smaller. Moving it requires that doors be disconnected from their hinges, and that I run the risk of dislocating several discs in my spine.

Otherwise I am quite happy with the TV. I bought it at a time when LED and plasma TVs had just come on to the market. They were the high-profile, big budget items. At the time, however, the picture quality was not up to a standard that warranted a three or four thousand euro asking price. Instead, I walked into Power City one Saturday and gazed across the football pitch at the back wall that was lined with televisions. I found the one with the clearest, sharpest picture and bought that for less than half the price of a flat screen. I took it home and plugged it into my Sky box. One of the Star Wars Movies was on, “Attack of the Clones”. The picture resolution was such that I immediately became airsick and had to sit on the couch before I fell over. Later we watched “Pulp Fiction”. At one point I was convinced that John Travolta was actually inside my television, and that someone had removed the glass. That’s how impressed I was by the picture quality compared to what I had been watching.

A few years have gone by. HD TV is here, to a certain extent. All the flat screen bugs have been worked out, and the HD bugs are being resolved. The term “Home Cinema” is actually coming to represent something of quality that the average person can afford. And when necessary, the box can be lifted easily and brought to the repair shop, provided you have a hatch back that can take a 50” screen. After years of waiting to be impressed, I’m finally starting to get there.

But am I impressed enough to trade in the Sony WEGA? That, my friends, is the wrong question. Here’s why. I was just thumbing through a newspaper in which I saw an article about how Sky Sports ran a test of 3D television yesterday. A pub in Drumcondra was one of the venues chosen for the test. All the patrons, including former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (it’s his local), were wearing 3D glasses and enjoying the NEXT BIG THING that is “the next best thing to being there”.

Can mass production be far behind? In a year or two, just in time for Christmas, there will be first generation sets that some people will absolutely need to own. Then there will be better-quality, second and third generation sets that are worth buying. Then Sky will actually start broadcasting selected channels in 3D and HD.

I realize it will take at least five or six years to sort out the logistics and work out the bugs. Then I expect to be impressed enough to retire my old, 2D TV and cough up the bucks for a fourth generation of the new technology, which will have come down by at least 400% from the first-generation price. In the meantime, I reckon I’ve got at least ten good years left in the Sony WEGA. I can wait. I’m a patient man, and I don’t plan on moving house anytime soon.