How Hi Def Could Save the World

Reader Contribution 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

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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Photos by Cam & Michelle Mather. For more information about Cam or his books please visit or