Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One more way TV is driving away viewers

Traditional television is under attack. Consumers, sick of endless commercials and high cable and satellite prices, are turning elsewhere. Some are signing on to Internet streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, while others are going even further, shunning anything even resembling TV, and getting their entertainment from Instagram, video games and the endless variety of new phone apps.

You would think that, given this environment, the TV industry would be doing everything it could to hold onto viewers. So why are they aggravating so many viewers by not letting them see the whole screen?

An increasing number of programs are cutting off the visible part of the show on each side. Watching sports, I find key parts of the action sometimes happen off-screen to the right or left. Written information, like the team line-ups, are often cut off.

A PBS documentary on Walt Disney cut off the full names and titles of people being interviewed. On some shows, I see only half the face of a speaker. I feel like I'm seeing only three-quarters of each show.

Even commercials -- the lifeblood of TV -- are increasingly framed in a way that you can't even see the full name of the product.

Some say that I need to buy a wide-screen TV, but why is the onus on me just because some television producers have changed their product? My TV works perfectly well, and the screen proportions it uses were perfectly fine for 50 years of television.

Why should I spend hundreds or even thousand of dollars on a new TV to meet their needs? If I run out and buy a new set, and then the Gods of TV decide to change show proportions again -- making them even wider, or taller, or who knows, oval or round  -- do we all have to drop everything and go purchase new TVs again?

I'm enjoying TV less and less each time I find a show where parts are missing.

"You don't have any choice but to get a wide-screen TV," some people say. But I do have a choice. I can choose to watch the frustration-free shows where they don't cut off the edges ("Jeopardy," for example). Or, I can choose not to watch TV at all -- and increasingly that's what I do.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Italians parents blame the mayor for not giving out free food

More and more I feel like I just don't understand how people think. This came up today when I read a New York Times story about an Italian city where many parents have failed to pay their school lunch fees.

In all, the article said, parents in the city of Corsico have run up a tab of over a million euros ($1,090,000) in unpaid school lunch fees. Some families owe as much 6,000 euros ($6,510). 

The mayor decided enough was enough. He said simply, if you don't pay your lunch fees your kids don't get school lunches. Pretty straightforward, right?

This is where things get weird. The reactions to the mayor's action were bewildering, if not outright bizarre.

Some called the mayor's action "blackmail" (huh?). Others said it would create "schoolroom apartheid" because some students would eat school lunches and others wouldn't. Besides the fact that the term "apartheid" stems from something far more serious than lunches, is it really so scary that kids would eat different things?

One politician said, "You can't deny food to a child." Well, besides the fact that parents often do deny food to their children ("no snacking right before dinner," for example), in this case no one was stopping kids from eating lunch. 

And the article had still more comments from parents and educators attacking the mayor, and saying he's responsible if kids end up going hungry because they don't get a free school lunch.

Let's consider the basics: Who is responsible for making sure a child has a lunch to eat? The child's parents, of course. And these parents in Corsico, like so many others, have two choices: Give their children a homemade lunch, or pay for a school lunch.   So who gets blamed if the parents do neither?  Well, obviously, it's ... the mayor? 

See the article here.


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