Sunday, August 15, 2010

Window Washing

Upon entering our hotel room last weekend, we were surprised to find that the large, high-definition, flat panel television was not only on, but also displaying a nature scene from a fixed camera. Why it was on, we weren’t sure, but it was pretty and peaceful so we left it on.
While I appreciate natural beauty, after an initial inspection and immediate absorption, I don’t find nature scenes all that interesting to look at (picture Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold at the rim of the Grand Canyon), so I went about my unpacking business but did notice the conspicuous quiet of the nature program. To my delighted surprise, there was no eventual voice-over explaining how this was the pristine beach of such-and-such island, and these animals were endangered by man’s activities.
Instead, the scene changed to another fixed camera shot of kids shouting and people milling about around an oddly futuristic rectangular video billboard.  I watched this one carefully.  The billboard, in the middle of what appeared to be a strip of wet pavement, showed only a close-up rectangle of a female human face.  Then her eyes moved!  Then she smiled!  Then she opened her lips and blew water over all the delighted children!
Of course, if you’re familiar with Chicago’s Millennium Park Crown Fountain, you would not have been as impressed as I was.  Well, I was not familiar with it and was, in fact, completely impressed, and more importantly, I was compelled to watch more out of my high definition “window.” The fact that a city view was available out of my actual window if I chose to rotate my head 45° to the east could not entice me to look away from the Times Square scene as cars and people rushed about in vivid Technicolor.  There was something so much more colorful, more interesting, more real about the scene on the television that it excited and frightened me at the same time.

In addition to experiencing the Crown Fountain, we travelled through the canals of Venice in a gondola, down the Yangtze River in another boat, and stared at Chicago skyline reflected in Cloud Gate (another Millennium Park installation).  As I mentioned, Stephen was particularly fond of the penguins on some beach in Argentina.  We watched the dancing waters outside the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas and saw families sliding on the LED infused ice pavers at the Ice and Snow World in Harbin, China.  The scenes of beaches and waterfalls are too numerous to mention.  Although some shots were tighter than others, most were removed from the action.  All were fixed—as if you were staring out of a window.
I’ll admit it. I felt pretty relaxed as I let the fixed point scenes wash over me.
After the series of brief videos began to repeat (okay, twice), we got a little bored.  I don’t know what prompted Stephen to check what else was on the television, but I reacted with equal parts excitement and trepidation as he discovered what we were watching was only one of seven Window Channels available.
Feeling much like Dory in Finding Nemo when she sees the beautiful little light dangling in the deepwater environment, I couldn’t help but stare at the glowing box of five to eight minute long videos thinking, it’s so pretty. Unlike Dory, however, I understood that it very well may end up being the bioluminescent fishing lure of a metaphorical humpback angler fish!
So, what the hell is this thing we watched intently for what could seriously have been hours of our limited 24-hour stay? The simple, spa-like, relaxing, and somewhat haunting tech music I can hear in the background of its homepage as I write this solidifies my conflicted feelings about our latest fascinating discovery. The Window Channel claims uses in both the hospitality and health industries. I can completely see that: increasing the desire to travel and adding its calming nature scenes to healing therapies. The Window Channel’s tagline is ambient. scenic. television. experience life in . . . high definition. The irony is not lost on me; I was surprised soma didn’t appear somewhere in the unobtrusive titles!  Maybe it did and I was too mesmerized to notice.
Despite my seemingly inexplicable compulsion to extend passive viewing of the television when a fabulous bit of the world (for which we paid plenty to actually experience) was there for the taking in real life, I walked away with an overall positive feeling about the whole window washing experience. I really enjoyed the chance to see and hear, even remotely, the sights and sounds of some fascinating built environments that I had never even heard of, let alone experienced before! Of the few nature scenes that I particularly enjoyed, one was a small snowy stream in Alabama(!). Because I was hot and cranky earlier, as I sat in the plush environmentally controlled room focusing on the gurgling sounds of the cold, gentle stream rushing through the snowy woodlands, my attraction to it was obvious.
Now, as to Stephen’s fascination with the penguins, all he managed to maintain after my repeated requests to explain his attraction was, “they’re so cute.”  Frankly, I don't get it.

Just in time for National Relaxation Day, I advise you to look for a Window Channel, or demo, near you.

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