How to Love the Monster

For no particular reason, we recently decided that it was time to
upgrade from our ancient tube TV. This is a rite of passage for many
people, like moving from a rental property to a mortgage, or dumping
your rickety old fourth-hand vehicle for a dope, spankin’ ride.

Typically when I make major new purchases, I spend countless hours
researching and analyzing the options. By the time I hit the showroom
floor I’m normally better informed than any salesperson.

This time I threw caution to the wind, assuming that a basic consumer
good like a television wouldn’t require any extensive understanding.
Heck, it’s just audio and video, right?

Big mistake. I’d now say that televisions rank ahead of computers in terms of decision-making complexity. When you take into account the variety of components that can plug into a picture, from satellite boxes to surround sound stereos, the decision making process is daunting. Self-education would have taken me till next spring.

This is partly due to the technology itself. There are a number of competing display types that offer varying degrees of price and quality options. Then there’s the plethora of possible input and output possibilities on televisions, each serving a different purpose.
Beyond that, however, are the subjective decisions you’ve got to make with a TV. The big one is, of course, do you like the picture?

I recklessly dove in and submitted myself to the sales-powers-that-be. It was a new experience.

Blissfully ignorant, I hit Eric’s Audiotronic on Main Street.

It’s always promising when the first sales guy you meet seems like a character out of a movie I might watch on my new TV. Right off the bat it was a cinematic experience. He sure beat the bored, pock-faced teenager at Future Shop I bought my last TV off in 1994, anyway.

For some reason, I instantly trusted this man. He relentlessly spewed A/V esoteria and and shamelessly bared his honest opinions without a second thought. He was a professional salesman in the sense that he knew how to work this innocent lamb of a customer. But I truly believed, for better or worse, that the information he fed me was on the up and dependable.

In fact, I ended up making a purchasing decision solely on what he told me.
(Well, actually, I couldn’t resist performing research online one night to verify some of his facts. But this was nothing compared to the self-education I typically undertake.)

So it was not without some trepidation that I strapped a new plasma screen into the back seat of my car (the box was too big to fit and I was too cheap to pay the $50 delivery fee). I knew almost nothing about this thing I’d just purchased, other than it was big, expensive, and drew gasps from passers-by on the street as we hauled it out of the store.

The first thing we watched, primarily in answer to the endless requests for “cowboy” from my 2-year-old, was Toy Story. Cole had just received it as a gift for his birthday and we’d watched it at least a dozen times over the previous three days. In other words, we were all bored stiff with it.

When the DVD picture hit the big screen, however, the room fell silent. Everybody, including my toddler, was instantly mesmerized by the clear, sharp, bright big picture.
We spent a few minutes just staring, then someone uttered, in awe, “I never noticed that scuff on his arm before.”

Then someone else managed something like, “the dinosaur’s scales are so rough.”
Cole remained perfectly silent (and the rest of us, hypnotized) until the credits rolled. Then he demanded we play it again.

That night I spent countless hours absorbed by the rich environments of Tony Hawk’s Underground. Then I threw on The Empire Strikes Back and saw details in the mis en scene I’d never noticed before.

By morning my eyes burned and my head was spinning.

I’m still ignorant of the one-eyes monster in my living room. But, boy, I sure do love it.

First published in the Yukon News on Friday, October 28, 2005

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