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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Mystery Stutter Theater 3000

(With baseball season approaching, I’ll likely be doing a bit more posting over at Bugs & Cranks in the next few weeks.

[For those interested, a big fancy site revamp is in the works over there, too. The new B&C v2.0 will be hitting the ground right around Opening Day, so stay tuned for that. Oh, whatever shall I wear to the red carpet premiere?]

As it happens, the party’s already started with yesterday’s posting of the inaugural Wednesday Walk Watch. Who can resist taking a walk the longest? Who’s got the twitchiest trigger this side of the Grapefruit League? And can anyone manage to post an on-base percentage lower than their batting average? All of this and more will be revealed in the Wednesday Walk Watch series. Once the season has the common decency to actually start, that is.

Meanwhile, today’s post is right here in your grubby little browser. Get readin’, cowpoke.)

I’m having a problem watching television.

Just a few weeks ago, the missus and I bought a new TV. Finally. Our previous set was from the last millennium, showing its age and in no way ‘HD-ready’. In fact, it’s safe to assume it was entirely HD-unprepared. I’m fairly well convinced that the television didn’t even believe in HD; it probably thought hi-def was just some sort of wild theory cooked up by the scientists to scare small child televisions. If it knew the truth, its antenna would shrink all the way up inside it.

” I’m fairly well convinced that the television didn’t even believe in HD; it probably thought hi-def was just some sort of wild theory cooked up by the scientists to scare small child televisions.”

The problem, however, is not with the old television. It’s gone now, off to that cathode ray tube playground in the sky. Rust in peace, old friend.

The problem also seems not to be with the new television. I haven’t had any troubles with it since I lugged the cursed behemoth up three flights of stairs because our local UPS driver is too damned lazy to do his job. The new TV sits there, like it’s supposed to. It turns on and off when you ask it to, like a good little electronic monkey. And I can almost feel most of my vertebrae again. So that’s not the issue.

And the TV itself seems to be on its best behavior. As soon as the set is on, sounds and pictures spew forth from it, as usual. All of the dancing, swirling pretty lights and colors that keep us entertained as a society so we don’t go doing crazy things like reading or talking or solving the current financial crisis. Hey, as far as I’m concerned, when Big Bang Theory is on, the world stops for a half an hour. If you need to show me something or tell me an important bit of news or ask my opinion on sustainable global fiscal management policies, you’ll just have to wait. Or catch me during a commercial; right now, Leonard’s building a go-kart or something, and Sheldon’s going to say something snarky about Heisenberg. You leave now. Very busy.

The problem comes a few seconds after flipping on the set. Just when I’m getting engaged in a show, when things are juicing up and looking interesting– everything goes away.

No picture. No sound. No juice. Nothing.

Then it comes back, with the action jumped ahead a couple of seconds.

And then gone again, the TV as black as the soul of an infomercial copywriter.

Then it’s back. And gone. Back. And gone. Lather. Rinse. And forget about enjoying your show, because the resulting time-lapse train wreck is virtually unwatchable.

Not that I mind the cutaways, exactly. I’m used to watching videos on the web — no, not those kind of videos, you hairy-palmed perverts — so I’m familiar with the lag you might get with video buffering, or a blip in the connection. But in the case of online video, the clip returns to whence it interrupted. It’s a little disconcerting, but you don’t miss anything.

Not so with the television trouble here — which is actually some kind of satellite trouble, or decoder box issue or inferior cable cockup, and I really shouldn’t be suggesting it’s the television’s fault. Although it was the TV that gave me a full-body hernia and repeatedly threatened to squash me like a ripe pudgy tomato every time I inched it up another stair. But I blame UPS for that. It’s not the television’s fault their doughy delivery tomatoes are all wussies.

Anyway, whatever technical snafu is going on, the upshot is that three to five seconds of live-action drama — or South Park poop jokes, or Iron Chef ingredient unveiling, or whatever it is we happen to be watching — is simply lost to the ether. The show winks out, and when it comes back, something’s happened and we don’t know what the hell it was.

And dammit, I can’t watch TV that way.

It’s bad enough when it’s some police drama or other. We get subjected to a lot of ‘And the murderer is–‘ or ‘Okay, okay, I buried all the bodies in–‘. And then we never hear the good bits. But if it’s CSI or Law & Order, that’s no dealbreaker. We always figure the bad guys will get locked up or shot or thrown off a building at the end, anyway, so why sweat the details? You catch a couple of witty one-liners and a labwork montage, and you’re good to go. The episodes are pretty much all the same; they just rotate actors and felonies around to make different stories. Police drama Mad-Libs. No biggie.

But there are more important considerations here. What if I’m watching the Simpsons, and I miss the Mr. Plow song? Or Bear Grylls is about to shove some filthy giant bug or worm or eyeball down his gullet, and the obligatory ‘Oh, blimey!‘ doesn’t make it down the wire? Worst of all, what if Good Eats is on, with Alton in the middle of explaining how to brine a turkey and he tells us to add six cups of–


Clearly, it’s more stress than I can bear. Also, I’ve been cooking with a lot more vodka lately. Which mostly means ‘drinking it’, since I don’t know how to work the oven. Or the refrigerator. Or the microwave.

Also, evidently, the new TV. Either that, or the satellite box is yearning to join its old buddy up in obsolete technogadget heaven. It’s probably time to get a new converter-slash-TiVo doohickey.

Meanwhile, I’m taking advantage of the situation to watch some shows I just really, really hate. I figure this way when I miss something, I won’t really care. Also, I only have to see half the show or so, since the receiver keeps winking the rest away. Much more tolerable this way.

See, a lesser man might just forget about watching TV at all. Me, I’m turning it to my advantage. And I don’t have to read or talk or devise innovative budgetary strategies to pull the economy out of the crapper or anything. I just have to suffer through twelve minutes of Two and a Half Men, distributed across its regular thirty-minute time slot.

Say, maybe this ‘television problem’ isn’t so much of a problem, after all. Sweet.

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