Coins are, like,

Posted on February 26th, 2009 No comments. The post is really that bad, huh?

index fingers out-apart-down-together-snap-sville. Dig?

I feel like I’ve discovered a bewitching new world right where my TV monitor used to be. In the same sense as car crashes or deformed kittens are so damn compelling, local access cable offers a dizzying variety of shows that make looking away impossible.

I just want to point out, right up front, that this is neither moaning, bitching, nor complaining. I watch enough dreck that tries to pass itself off as entertainment that, production values aside, local cable is a comparative gleaming jewel.

I mean, there’s absolutely no pretense here.  These folks know that their audience is extremely limited so their shows have a real laissez-faire atmosphere. During weekdays, some of these shows must skim dangerously low over the ratings plains. The effort matches the budget, matches the content, [unfairly] matches audience numbers.

Yet, despite these seeming obstacles, we find encapsulated in each frozen frame a vast, endless realm of entertainment. Kind of like a heavy acid trip.

Shop!Take this screencap of late night with The Canadian Shopping Channel. Unfortunately I managed to miss the frame in which the announcer’s finger aided in relativizing the scale of the merchandise, but hopefully you’ll trust me when I tell you that this is an old Canadian ten-dollar bill.

Have a good look; let the ambiance of it set in.

Now we can begin an organized, scholarly analysis.

First, we come to the obvious motif; perhaps a bit antiquated, but many people would still recognize good old Hermes up front, caduceus held jauntily close to his jibblies, vanguard of the modern transportation age.

According to the announcer, behind the Winged Messenger (at his feet), lies a globe symbolizing “Canada’s prominence in global transportation.”

The prominence of Central America, whose strangely emaciated shores stand front and center on the globe, is the only feature I can pick out. The U.S. is tucked safely behind Hermes’ calf  so calling it “prominent” would be somewhat of a misnomer; casting Canada as “prominent” in this scene, slung somewhere toward the back of the globe, is a happy irony. The Royal Mint was apparently real easy with double entendres in the thirties.

The next item that the presenter pointed out was the strange, hat-like shape just to the right of Hermes in the sky (you’ll need to view the larger version of the image for this). In this spot, the aforementioned finger was pointing to the newest,  choice form of Canadian international travel: the airplane. Maybe the face of the bill is faded (!) or maybe the detail is smaller than I expected, but all I see an airborne snot rag. Maybe it’s an U.F.O., or maybe more commentary by our boys at the Mint.

Delightful!

So, okay, we have a couple of relatively minor graphical things that may have simply been interpreted wrong by the  announcer. They do chip away at my credulity and would make me think twice before parting with nearly a grand, but let’s not dwell on this. Especially since there is so much more to discover!

Next I wanted to turn our attention to the artistic merits of the bank note as a whole. What, exactly, is it that makes it look a little strange (subject matter aside)? It’s quite simple. Notice the ships at the left side; they’re resting at a proper angle on top of the water. The vanishing point,   a point in the image where all perspective lines converge, is somewhere in the center of the picture. The ships’ lines correctly radiate out from this point, giving the viewer the impression that the ships are real, three-dimensional objects.

The right half of the centerpiece, however, appears to have tossed out this convention in favour of a train track where the vanishing point would force the locomotive to drive deep into the ground. The cow-catcher would be sadly obsolete, but that would be the least of our worries in such a reality.

Assuming the whole set has about seven bills in it ($1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100), that would make the cost roughly $128 a pop. That, to me, is excessive for a bill where the details are poorly preserved (assuming they’re there), and where highschool art class concepts are discarded for seemingly no good reason.

But that’s all aesthetic, right? To each his own and all that. Besides, the art on legal tender is not within the presenter’s control, so let’s zoom out to a more macro-level view and look at the other features of the program that really make it stand out. Why not start with the obvious?

I had more than a passing fancy in Numismatics so I know at least a touch about bill and coin collecting. Let’s assume you don’t have an introduction in this field. Regardless of how much you may or may not know, you’d think it would be safe to assume that the items being sold on “The Coin Show” would be coins. Not so.

Moving on, the toll-free number in the corner was surely the invention of some rebellious marketeers.  Here they’ve shunned the one-three-three-four digit combination pattern for a startling one-three-four-three sequence.

Outrageous!

A bit of hyperbole, I know, but you have to admit something there feels wrong. The numbers are grouped in mnemonic sets, which I suppose makes sense, but they’re just begging to be misread and mis-dialed. And why not? The pink “Shop” logo in the other corner indicates the target audience; mostly women and mostly, I suspect,  middle-aged. That often means glasses which are intended specifically to prevent the misreading of oddly-grouped and small-fonted  information.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “You know, Patrick, this sounds an awful lot like whining, bitching, and possibly complaining.” Well, you’re wrong.

needs a title?These things I point out are the things that keep me so enthralled with local cable. I chose only one, and in hindsight, somewhat weak example from the pseudo-local Shopping Channel. Had I been tuned to Rogers Cable 10, I would have been treated to an expansive, multi-layered array of brilliant programming such as Toronto’s Talent, Sex @ 11, and GTHL Minor Midget Hockey.

These programs are something that the big networks with their budgets, polished scripts, and personable hosts can never hope to approach. It’s precisely the awful, poorly scripted and ultra-low budget shows that local channels carry that makes them so enjoyable.

Pulling comparisons between major network shows and those found on local access TV is mostly an apples-and-oranges affair. As I pointed out at the beginning, if you’re not willing to crack a smile when they’re on (especially the “serious” ones), you are going to suffer some form of brain damage.  However, if you’re able to check your presumptions at the door and just enjoy shows as the  genuine entertainment that they are, I’m sure you’ll find that local access television in Toronto is the bee’s knees. It’ll help while reading TCL too.

What's on your mind?