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Terrible content, even on a wide-screen television, is still terrible

I'm really excited about my friend Martin's new high-definition TV.

Martin and his wife Carolyn are Tigard residents who already had a couple of gold stars by their names because (A) Martin's a great cook, and (B) they have a hot tub.

What more could you ask for in friends, right? Oh yeah, they're also really nice people.

But now that they have a 42-inch HDTV, it's going to be hard not to be at their house all the time.

As a matter of fact, I helped them buy their TV. I went with them to the store in deepest, darkest Beaverton and helped with the shopping - you know, asking questions, frowning at the giant screens, that sort of thing. While my wife was over at Fred Meyer thinking only of herself, I was in there matching wits with an army of salespeople, pretending to be browsing, then not, then browsing again. You get the picture.

Now, what we discovered (Martin, Carolyn and I) is perhaps the coolest thing about high-definition TV there is: That you don't need hotshot cable, satellite or computer hookups to get that awesome picture.

You don't hear a lot of talk about this, but it's important to low-tech people like us who don't have cable TV or satellite dishes or always-on computer service.

See, there are a few of us left in the world who are the technology equivalents of druids. We have rabbit ears on our TV sets, and we're quite happy, thank you very much, to get channels 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 32 and 49. It's free, after all, and as a very wise Portlander used to say, 'Free is a very good price.'

Well, hear me now and think about it later - HDTV reception can be free.

In fact, as my Tigard friends discovered, once they got their 42-inch set hooked up and running, they actually got quite a few more TV channels out of the air (also free), including a couple of religious stations, a Spanish channel, a shopping network and - and this is a big one - a sports channel that sometimes airs the Oregon Ducks games, which I don't get with my crappy rabbit ears, even though I am a University of Oregon graduate and semi-fervent athletic supporter.

Of course, many of my pointy-headed, liberal friends are not big television watchers anyway. Unlike me (I can waste hours watching just about anything that moves in front of me), most of them view the wide-screen TV sets as a great new way to watch movies in their homes.

Speaking of movies, apparently there's trouble brewing in the pornographic movie business, and it's the fault of high-definition TV. According to stories circulating among respected news agencies this month, 'The XXX industry has gotten too graphic, even for its own tastes.'

The International Herald Tribune reported last week that, now that porn studios are releasing high-def DVDs, 'They have discovered that sometimes the technology is not so sexy. The high-definition format is accentuating imperfections in the actors - from a little extra cellulite on a leg to wrinkles around the eyes.'

Vivid Entertainment Group, one of the big players in smut circles, insists that high definition 'is the future.' Vivid has been shooting with high-definition cameras for two years to build up a catalog of high-def movies, according to the news story. In March, Vivid plans to release 'Debbie Does Dallas Again.'

'Jesse Jane, one of the industry's biggest stars, plans to go under the knife next month to deal with one side effect of high-definition,' reports the Herald Tribune's Matt Richtel. 'The images are so clear that Jane's breast implants, from an operation six years ago, can be seen bulging oddly on screen.'

Oh, my.

''I'm having my breasts redone because of HD,'' she said. The stretch marks on Jane from seven years ago when she gave birth to her son are also more apparent. But she deals with those blemishes in a simpler way: By liberal use of tanning spray.'

It's good to know they're keeping up with the changes in technology, huh?

I do need to point out, though, that porn movies, whether in high-definition format or not, are not free. Which is one of the reasons Martin and I won't be watching them on his new TV.

Not the only reason, of course. Our wives would not allow it, and it would be wrong.

Mikel Kelly is a former managing editor of the Lake Oswego Review, Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood. He now handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.