tv

WHINGE

ATTENTION-SEEKING, DISOBEDIENT LITTLE BLIGHTERS

We have fallen upon evil times; the world has waxed old and wicked. Politics are very corrupt. Children are no longer respectful to their elders. Each man wants to make himself conspicuous and write a book.

King Naram Sin of Chaldea probably did not have this quote impressed into clay tablets around 5,800 years ago, as is often claimed, but I’m sure he would have wanted to. Maybe he was too busy organizing the Assyrian version of ICAC to put pen to clay.

We’ll ignore any interpretation that writing an article for CRANK is akin to writing a book and concentrate on the ‘respect’ aspect of the quote. I find that, more and more, I am surrounded by disrespect and attention-seeking behaviour: “listen to me” “I’m not doing that” “don’t forget me” “Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!” And so on, all day long.

The washing machine was the original prima donna. A continuous trilling echoes through the house near the end of the rinse cycle if it deems its precious cargo is ‘out of balance’. If it’s so smart, why doesn’t the damn-fool thing add some more water, swirl the clothes around a bit, and try again?

The fridge developed a much more subtle approach to attention-seeking. No amount of levelling would convince the door to shut by itself, let alone with a gentle push. A master of deception, its door looks shut and then…beep, beep, beep, on and on until you come and shut it up (pun intended).

But it was the inductive cooktop that was the final straw. Put something on it, like the shopping, and likely as not a beep will be emitted every so often until you take it off. Trill, trill—sorry that’s the washer needing its load redistributed. Where was I? Oh yes, the cooktop. Perversely, if you’re frying, and you take the pan off, it beeps. Beep, beep—sorry that’s the fridge this time, somebody didn’t shut its door properly. Trill, trill—[sigh]—the washer wasn’t satisfied with the redistribution. How can you get anything done, when even your interruptions are interrupted? Pure chaos! Taking a deep breath now… ahhhh… as for touching the marked spots on the cooktop that purportedly control power and temperature, well! Maybe it’ll condescend to turn on or off or do whatever you’d hoped would happen, but more likely is complete disdain.

The kindest way to describe the cooktop’s timer is ‘perverse’. Unlike the oven’s, which can easily be heard in the next room while watching TV, the cooktop’s timer is annoyingly insistent yet quiet enough to ensure you must be close by. But there’s worse: when you use the timer to remind you to gauge activity on hot plate 1, it assumes you want to turn off hot plate 1 at the same time! In fact, some seconds before the timer actually sounds! No doubt this is a feature of which the designers were mightily proud, and maybe something I could rectify if I could (be bothered to) read the microscopic print of the instruction manual. But as the default action? I ask you. And even more remarkable, the ultimate in intelligent design must surely be this: if you turn off hot plate 1, the timer turns off too!

And speaking of arrogance and timers, the new microwave doesn’t appear to be able to be used just as a timer—too demeaning a chore for such a self-opinionated high-tech device, I suspect.

Well, that’s a run down of the attention-seekers of the title. Now, let’s tackle those that have perfected disobedience: the TV and the computer. On second thoughts, maybe not. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I’ll get back to you after a cup of tea, a Bex and a good… beep, beep, beep, beep…. [slams fridge door]… lie down.

SERENDIPITY, WARRNAMBOOL

Thinking to save time and effort the Inuit people trained polar bears to respond to ice-box alarms, though not always with the desired results. Fortunately polar bears did not care much for fizzy pop and preserved fruits.  [Showroom windows at the Metropolitan Gas Co., 196 Flinders Street, Melbourne]. Commercial Photographic Co., ca. 1930 - ca. 1939, State Library of Victoria, H2011.52/171.

Thinking to save time and effort the Inuit people trained polar bears to respond to ice-box alarms, though not always with the desired results. Fortunately polar bears did not care much for fizzy pop and preserved fruits. [Showroom windows at the Metropolitan Gas Co., 196 Flinders Street, Melbourne]. Commercial Photographic Co., ca. 1930 - ca. 1939, State Library of Victoria, H2011.52/171.

WHINGE

MY KINGDOM FOR A REMOTE

In the 1990s TV series Beverly Hills, 90210, whenever Tori Spelling’s character appears on the screen, the world goes Thin. Everything on screen, including her, is stretched vertically. It’s easiest to notice this in scenes that include a second character. First, there is Normal Jason Priestley by himself, then a cut to Freakishly Thin Jason Priestley standing next to Tori Spelling, then another cut to Normal Jason Priestley by himself again. Presumably this arrangement between Tori Spelling and the producers of 90210, whoever they were, was intended to flatter her with the appearance—frankly unnecessary—of even more skinniness. Instead, it’s uncanny.

Even a square—a literal square, not a figurative one like me—next to 90210’s Tori Spelling, wouldn’t be square. It would be taller than it is wide. The ratio of that no-longer-square’s width to its height is called its “aspect ratio”. Proper, Jason-Priestley-type squares, have an aspect ratio of one to one, or “1:1” in the language of the industry. A Next-To-Tori-Spelling-Square would have an aspect ratio of about 0.8:1 (equivalently 4:5, because only the ratio matters).

Your TV also has an aspect ratio. Its image is wider than it is tall, so it has an aspect ratio greater than 1. If you are a grumpy old fart, you will remember the TV that you used to have had an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (or 4:3). You will no doubt also remember the elation and freedom you felt with your first “widescreen” TV, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (or 16:9). At least until you discovered that there was not in fact any widescreen content available for your expensive new TV. All the analogue channels steadfastly presented their content in 4:3 until the day they died. But dammit, you paid for that extra screen real estate, and dammit, you were going to use it. So you stretched the too-narrow picture horizontally so that it filled the whole screen. Or, perhaps, that was the TV’s default setting and you couldn’t find the button on the remote control to adjust the picture. The result? Everything is fat. The people are fat; the squares are fat; even the test pattern is fat.

TVs in hotels are the worst offenders. They are fed by 1980s-era analogue signal distribution boxes, happily churning out 4:3 pay-per-view movies to brand-new widescreen LCD televisions. On the assumption that you are a thieving remote-control hoarder, the hotel gives you a special hotel-only remote control with, invariably, no button to fix the aspect ratio. You are forced to watch your movie full of fat people. But dammit, you paid for that movie, and dammit, you’ll watch it.

This is why, when I stay at a hotel, a little part of me hopes that they are screening old episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210. The Fat of the hotel TV would be cancelled by the Thin of 90210. It’s probably the only way I’ll get to see Normal Tori Spelling. (And Freakishly Fat Jason Priestley, but let’s not think about that.)

DEBORAH PICKETT (@FUTZLE) is presented in 1:1.

Alas this promising potentiality was abandoned after several serious misdiagnoses and many other transgressions, not all of which were entirely due to viewing patients at the incorrect aspect ratio. Reproduction of a drawing after D.L. Ghilchip, 1932. Plate to:  Punch , 21 September 1932, p. 321. Wellcome Library, No. 15504i. 

Alas this promising potentiality was abandoned after several serious misdiagnoses and many other transgressions, not all of which were entirely due to viewing patients at the incorrect aspect ratio. Reproduction of a drawing after D.L. Ghilchip, 1932. Plate to: Punch, 21 September 1932, p. 321. Wellcome Library, No. 15504i.