Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tube Haboob!!!

"What are we going to do without the television?" Those were the first words out of Jiro's mouth this morning (Jiro is my number two son in birth order). It was a  cry that has echoed throughout the less fortunate corners of Temple Valley over the months leading to this day. It's D-day, digital broadcasting day, the day they cut off the analog TV connection and make the glorious digital transformation everyone has been talking about for years. 

For residents of Japan, the writing on the screen is bigger than ever. Television sets have been warning viewers of the impending metamorphosis for a month via a little message that constantly appears in the bottom left corner of the screen. It's not so bothersome. In fact it's no distraction at all for viewers here who are accustomed to a similar message that has been running across the bottom of the screen for many months now, along with the clock in the top left hand corner and the intermittent typhoon and earthquake warnings that flash across the top center. This confusing display of text is all often accompanied by Japanese subtitles, streaming across the top of the little message at the bottom, for Japanese television programs featuring people speaking Japanese. Why the subtitles? I don't know. I haven't researched it or anything but I don't think it's like closed caption for hearing impaired and deaf viewers. I think it's more for dramatic impact. Any way once they flip the digital switch, some of that screen ink will disappear and the picture will be clearer than ever to boot. 

The only glitch is that we don't have a digital TV antenna installed, which has instilled some (like Jiro) with a sense of panic. He's seen this kind of scenario play out in the past and views this event with much trepidation. To him it looks like a repeat of the same show. The last time our TV broke down, I decided not to get a new one. I thought the lack of the boob tube might spark a cultural renaissance where we would write operas, create inspiring images on canvas, pen the great novels of our time, etc. It didn't happen. We did play a lot of board games, which we still do to this day, but mostly the void was filled by comic books and portable electronic gaming devices. We eventually bought a new, digital broadcast-ready, monster of a television.

While we still don't exactly have the approximately three hundred dollars to shell out for a digital TV antenna we do have a plan. After some research, M (my wife) has discovered a way to turn a traditional Japanese wind power device, the uchiwa (a rounded hand held fan), into a state-of-the-art digital broadcast receptor. All it took was a little tin foil, some tape, a length of electrical wiring and about fifteen minutes of labor to turn that little plastic fan (a promotional item bearing a cell phone advert that someone was giving away by the thousands in front of the local train station) into our golden ticket to that wonderful wasteland known as televised programming.

M holding fantenna
 We've hung our makeshift antenna (aka the fantenna) on the clothes line and when typhoon number six, which the weather service has been textually warning us about via the top half of the TV monitor for the better part of the  morning, finally makes landfall we'll take it in so it doesn't get wet or cause any problems.  It's now 11:59 and we're on the edge of our seats.

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