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October 10, 2015

The HD Yule Log: The TV Squad review

by Jay Black, posted Dec 26th 2006 1:03PM
The log... the log... the log is on fire!Every single thing that gets aired on television is also beamed into space. It's not instant; the transmissions are limited by the speed of light (which means the aliens living on Wolf 424 are just now getting to watch the first season of Hanging with Mr. Cooper), but they're out there and there's no taking them back.

It's odd to consider, but it's true: what we air on TV is our first introduction to the universe. If aliens do exist and they decide to study Earth, the first thing they'll probably look at is our TV broadcasts. Later on this week, I'll be writing about the five worst shows to represent humanity (a lot of them are on MTV), but I wanted to introduce the topic today because I just can't stop thinking about what aliens might think regarding our curious habit of airing a few hours of a burning log every Christmas.

Maybe they'll think we're on an ice planet (like Hoth) and watch this log once a year to fantasize about warmth. Possibly, they'll think we're on an environmentally ravaged planet where all the trees have died and we watch the burning log as a reminder of what got us in trouble in the first place. Or maybe they'll think we're a race of intelligent trees and the burning log is our own form of snuff porn. We'll probably never know.

The only thing we can know for sure is that the aliens tuning into Earth's TV broadcasts from 2006 will see something they've never seen before: the burning Yule Log in high definition. And, while it's impossible to guess what our future alien overlords will make of the new log, it is the opinion of this reviewer that the old log was better.

Let me explain. The Yule Log exists for three reasons that I can identify:

  1. As a way to avoid having to program a full day's broadcast schedule. No one is really watching television and this avoids the need to put up any "sacrificial lambs" (I'm looking at you, 1997 Spelling Bee Championship on ESPN 2).
  2. It provides ironic hipster types something to put on and "laugh at" with their ironic hipster friends while they exchange poetry journals made from recycled paper and gift certificates to vintage t-shirt shops.
  3. It's a pleasant distraction for those of us that don't have fireplaces and would like a nice simulation of a "traditional" holiday.
It's in this last reason for existence (arguably, the most important) that the new HD Yule Log fails. The new humongous HD fireplace wasn't pleasant. It was scary.

Consider: A good portion of HD TVs are over 40 inches (my own is 55) and unlike the monstrous 5 ton 36" tube TVs they replaced, the new HDs can be easily hung on a wall or put on an elevated stand. Thus, when you're watching the new log (especially now that it fills up the entire screen), it no longer looks like a nice little fire in your TV fireplace: it now looks like a raging inferno that's engulfing your house.

Besides the size of the fire is the resolution of it. Instead of lo-def flicker, you get hi-def death flames. Seriously, every time I turned on the yule log, I got this brief feeling of fear floating up in my throat like I just realized the person I bumped into at the club was a drunk Naomi Campbell. It's not that I actually thought my house was burning down, it's just that for a tiny little second, I felt overwhelmed by the size and clarity of the flames. That never happened with the old Yule Log.

I'm not a luddite. I love technology and progress (I owned a LaserDisc player for goodness sake), but I think this one time we were better off with the old way of doing things. The old yule log relieved programmers and entertained hipsters without making it seem like your house was burning down. Let's go back to that time.

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"The new humongous HD fireplace wasn't pleasant. It was scary. "

Can I just say that that made me lol in my pants?

December 27 2006 at 9:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here in Chicago, we can choose to watch the HD version or the regular version. Both via on demand. I actauly liked it on my 42 incher although I did not like the close up shots as much. Also, I do wish that it was just a single fire over the 90 minutes so I could see it go through the process.

December 26 2006 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You forgot to point out you got that laser disc last year. Bit cheek, imo.

December 26 2006 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joshua Stein

I was actually disappointed with the resolution of the supposedly high-def yule log. I was excited about it (well, as excited as anyone ever gets over the broadcast of the yule log), but it still looked cheesy to me.

The poor quality was explained in the suprisingly entertaining "yule log biography" they showed at the end of the two hours of wood burning entertainment. Apparently, this is the same footage, looped every 16 minutes, that was shot in the early seventies, in a Southern California home in the middle of August. Also, the first attempt was done at Gracie mansion in NYC, and nearly burned the joint down.

So the yule log in HD is like watching "The Dirty Dozen" in HD. Yeah, it looks a little better, but a few decades of age on the film stock really does take a toll on the overall quality. Seriously, I am all for tradition, but can't someone take a handy-cam to some place in upstate New England and get us a fresh 16 minutes?

December 26 2006 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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