Friday, November 7, 2008

Pop Culture and Digital Life

Living in the boondocks has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at the plus side for a moment. The nights are peaceful and free of light pollution and noisy city traffic. The stars twinkle brilliantly in the firmament so that it seems possible to reach out and touch them. The wind whispers through the leaves and creatures great and small are likely to cross your path. They appear suddenly as if visions, and then are silently gone. At such times, we pause to admire these beautiful creatures that share the world just beyond out doorstep. Your morning alarm may be the wild feathered friends, or the rooster across the intervale. There is no travel to pick wild berries and you are likely to have fruit trees on the property. From season to season you are surrounded by beauty, and the sweet scent of nature.

On the other hand, there are inconveniences. You have to travel to work, to get services, or go to market. You learn to plan your time and consolidate your errands. You are often responsible for basics such as water and sewer in the form of well and septic system. When you are snowbound, you are quite literally cut off from the world. Other niceties of the modern world often arrive long after everyone else has enjoyed them for years, such as high speed internet, caller ID or even cable TV.

Out in the country, television reception is poor. Despite this, I have never found a need to have more than the three snowy channels I currently enjoy. The downside of this however, is the joking references that go over my head on a regular basis. The pop culture that generates from such shows as South Park for example means nothing to me. How do I know about South Park then? I needed to educate myself via other media outlets so as to understand if what I heard was an insult, complement, or just a joking reference. It can be quite time consuming trying to keep up with the current trends. Sex in the City? Never watched it, but you can get full season episodes on DVD. None of it timely enough for me to stay in the loop. Thank goodness DSL finally came to town so I could ditch dial-up.

Enter in digital TV. I start to imagine myself actually having a broader choice of what to watch should I choose to turn on the television. I send away for my government card worth $40 and pick up my digital converter. Once plugged in, the unit scans for signals. Nothing! How can that be? We have someone out to the house to put up a new antenna. “Sorry, you are not ideally located.” We have a second opinion. “We can put up a tower, but that might cost ten grand.” I write to the television stations as suggested by the FCC. Only one station writes back. It is the education I need. VHS and UHF are on very different bands, one narrow, and one broad. The snowy channels have been coming from the broader band. The narrow one can’t find us. It is on this narrow band that digital television will be delivered.

I’m having trouble convincing the cable company to come down my road, and I don’t like the monthly cost of satellite dish television service. It’s a hard enough pill to swallow that something once free must now be paid for. It looks as though I will not be catching up on the pop culture any time soon. Come February when the TV goes blank, so will my face with the next pop culture referenced joke.

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