My new projector — which I’ve been drooling over for some time now — finally arrived late yesterday afternoon.
After the usual struggle to get it mounted and connected, and the ritual Tweaking of the Settings — which involved testing it with the Blu-ray disc of “Casino Royale” and the HD DVD edition of my beloved “Shaun of the Dead”, both of which looked positively rapturous in proper 1080p/24 — Kate and I settled down to watch the third McCain-Obama debate in true HD, rather than the quasi-HD of our previous projector, the Sanyo PLV-Z1.
Sweet zombie Jesus. With the accent on the “zombie”.
I’ve been watching HD programming for years now, but I hadn’t realized how much definition we were losing with the Sanyo’s 1/4 HD panels. The sit-down format of this debate, with both candidates framed in close-up on a split screen, also played up the details in both men’s faces.
We could see the hint of five o’clock shadow on Obama’s upper lip. And the harsh lighting made him look skinnier than usual — though that might also have been the natural result of his long, long campaign.
But John McCain looked like death. Lumpy, sagging, strangely moist-eyed for most of the hour we watched — sadly, I missed his “zero? Zero?” moment, and had to catch up to it online — McCain came off as an uncomfortable, creepy fraud struggling to keep his real emotions from spilling out onto the table.
That moment where he told Obama that his campaign of slanders and innuendo was all the result of his hurt feelings over Obama declining to join him in a series of town-hall debates? “Feeble” is the only word that applies to such a strategy. And Obama just looked like the bigger man in every respect by refusing to acknowledge the petulance — the childishness — of the charge.
Look, I used to respect John McCain. He may not be the straight-talking maverick he claims to be, but he used to be a pretty decent guy, and what the Bush people did to him in 2000 was reprehensible. In 2004, when the stories that John Kerry had approached him to be his running mate in a genuinely bi-partisan ticket — well, that seemed like a really good idea.
But the man running for President now is not your grandfather’s John McCain. He’s abandoned his ideals and his honor in pursuit of the Oval Office, surrounded himself with the same venal bastards who destroyed him in New Hampshire, and disgraced his name and his legacy with his campaign. The Sarah Palin thing is just an uncomfortable footnote now.
But back to the HD thing — maybe it’s just me (okay, it’s almost definitely just me), but this debate felt like Nixon-Kennedy all over again. On one side, there’s a calm, confident challenger who understands the medium and is using it to his best advantage; on the other, there’s an aging, combative veteran of the process who nonetheless seems ill-prepared for the venue. Who could possibly come away from this thinking McCain seemed more Presidential?