Sunday, March 16, 2014

television! and for all you cub fans: the sandberg game

If there’s one thing I learned on my recent trip beyond my own borders, it’s that everyone has got their television. They’ve got TV for sports, for movies, for Italian murder mysteries, for Downton Abbey, for fancy award shows. They’ve got TV for stock reports and financial news. They’ve got TV for everything under the sun and beyond the moon, and it comes through cable, magic boxes, the stratosphere. You can manipulate it with devices that record it, fast forward it, rewind it, even stop it in its tracks.

I love my new TV.

So as soon as I got home, I got myself a TV. And that old tank that’s been out in the garage since the great move of 2011 was hauled off to Vinnie’s (the one in L’Anse, in case you’re interested) for resale (hey, it still has its remote and that $40 converter thingie that was all the rage around 2010 or whenever it was that we had that great, forced, mass conversion from an analog world to a digital one). From that same garage I hauled in an ancient DVD/VCR player, plugged it into my new TV and into the wall, and it works.

I have rejoined the human race.

Now I spend mass amounts of time trying to figure out how to get programming on my new TV—all the shows, movies, sports, and news that I want, when I want it, how I want it, and at the price I want. Not having had a television for the past couple of years, I am really stupid about all this stuff. That’s probably why I bought a “smart” TV—I figured if it was smart enough, it would figure it all out for me. But so far, all that has really changed is that I now watch Netflix on a 29-inch TV screen rather than on a 15-inch computer screen.

Don’t get me wrong—that makes a big difference. Especially since I had to rearrange the living room to accommodate the TV and that spurred me to finally recover that old 57-cent rocker I got at the Goodwill a couple of years back. That was a fun project, and I’d been meaning to get to it for such a long time. And I got rid of the lamp with the busted shade and found, at my favorite antiques place in Ishpeming, a black cast iron and steel floor lamp with a glass shade. I got a new rug, so all in all, I am quite happy with the my new TV.

New old lamp, recovered rocker, and the new rug,
which looks exactly like the old rug.

But now I want more. I want baseball, and as best as I can tell, I have two choices. I can either pay for a satellite service and get some channels that broadcast baseball once in a while, or I can subscribe to MLB.TV, which may not even be an option, because I don’t think I bought the smartest TV on the block. To get MLB.TV on my TV, I might have to buy one of those magic boxes. So. Is it worth it?

One thing I know: it’s going to take time to figure out. My experience with HuluPlus tells me that. Its icon is on my smart TV and there was a one-week free trial so I signed up. There went some lost hours. I watched Jimmy Fallon’s inaugural opening monologue on the new Tonight Show over and over trying to get past the first set of commercials (after the first set of commercials the TV would go blank, dead, kaput, and who the heck wants commercials anyway?) and doing techie things that the pleasant HuluPlus help people suggested, impressing even myself with my ability to do these things, but I always approach it as if it is no more difficult than the Hokey Pokey and that seems to work, but whatever that last thing was, well, I don’t know, I didn’t do it. I didn’t shake it about. It just wasn’t worth it. I canceled HuluPlus and resumed watching movies and shows on Netflix. (I highly recommend “The Dalton Girls” and am stunned that “A Gun is My True Love” didn’t win the Oscar that year for best song.)

The thing is, I grew up in the Chicago area during a time when TV was free. We had CBS, NBC, ABC, a local PBS station, and WGN, which broadcast every Cub game, home and away, no matter where it was played, even on the moon, which I’ve heard is the locale for next year’s Opening Day. On top of that we had 26, 32, and 44, and indeed, at one time you needed a little aerial gizmo thing on top of the television set to get these UHF stations, and how my dad loved monkeying with those antennas! About as much as he loved monkeying with the other controls on the TV, those little knobs that adjusted the horizontal and vertical holds, the color, the brightness … Dad! It’s fine! Leave it alone! we would shout as suddenly “Bonanza” or “I Spy” or “My Favorite Martian” went all zig-zag and Hoss and Little Joe caromed from too red to too green. Of course there was that one episode with the leprechauns … 

I suppose by today’s standards eight channels seems paltry, but hey, they were free.

Of course, I remember a few years back I did have satellite TV. I would sit down many a night to watch, just clicking through channels, mumbling something about there being nothing on.

Ai yi yi. There is not one free station I can pick up here in Pelkie, Michigan.

This picture has nothing to do with anything, but it has a pretty flower in it,
and right now we are in need of flowers up here in the U.P.

On my travels, I learned not only of wondrous things like magic boxes and DVR, I heard complaints about cable companies and costs and mix-ups and screw-ups and all that should have led me to research the television world of today before walking into Walmart and plunking down cash for a new TV plucked off the shelf merely for its pixels and supposed smartness. But then again, it hooked up to Netflix and YouTube without a hitch, and that was good. So much of what I watch is old anyway. I’ve been re-enjoying “The Twilight Zone”series (see post from a couple of weeks ago), and on YouTube I found a classic from 1957: “The James Dean Story.”

But I want baseball, and I know I’m going to have to pay for it—no more idyllic afternoons watching for free—and I know I’m going to have to spend time figuring out the options. But … hey, hey. Wait a minute. I’ve got myself a smart-ass TV, right? So. Well. Why not? I think I’ll go watch that Sandberg Game again. It’s got Harry and Lou on the radio dubbed in, making it even better than the original NBC Game of the Week broadcast, though I’ve got nothing against Bob Costas.

We pick it up in the 7th inning, and soon … This crowd is going bananas! 

And I am thankful that Harry, below, in a Crackerjack mood, has been preserved, because so often that which truly matters simply vanishes.