Friday, February 06, 2009

COLUMN: Hi-Def Shopping

What is the true measure of a man?

According to MLK, it's "where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Plato once said that "the measure of a man is what he does with power." Ann Landers wrote that "the true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." And Clay Aiken asks, "Would he stand before you when it's down to the wire? Would he give his life up to be all he can? Is that, is that, ooooh, oooooooh, is that ooh-woh how you measure a man?"

Well, I'm here to tell you they're all wrong.

Clearly, the true measure of a man is whether or not that man has a better collection of toys than his parents. It's a challenge I'm always up for.

Let's look back to a few Christmases ago. My folks -- who are the most awesome parents in the world and who continue to spoil me rotten despite the calendar insisting that I'm an adult -- surprised me with a new computer for Christmas. And it was, as the kids say, totally pimped out.

Me being a part time club DJ, I needed a sound card decent enough to process music files at lightning speed. Instead, I opted for overkill. The card I picked out could process umpteen files at once, record a live band, compose a sonata, and quite possibly make me dinner and tuck me into bed. At the time, you simply couldn't buy a better sound card for a home PC.

A few months later, I was in my hometown visiting my folks. Mom had mentioned that they'd upgraded their computer as well, so I wandered into their computer room -- once known as my bedroom -- to check it out. There sat their new PC -- complete with the identical sound card as mine. My mouth hung open as I looked around the room to see a monster subwoofer and surround sound speakers lining the walls.

This might make sense -- if my mom used her computer for anything other than e-mail, solitaire, and Mahjong. To my knowledge, solitaire is soundless, e-mail occasionally goes "ding," and her Mahjong game plays a looped MIDI tune that surely is the soundtrack to a carnival worker's third layer of hell. But because my parents dig technology, she can now listen to that evil circus diddy in quadrophonic Dolby sensurround. I looked at the subwoofer. It was sad. It said, "Please, Shane, I yearn to play hip-hop. She has me turned all the way down." I'll bet money right now that my parents have yet to play any music with a bassline low enough to even trigger the power to the sub.

Last year, I finally made the move to a hi-def TV. It's a beast about 10" way too big for my tiny apartment. The kind of TV that says, "I am someone." The kind of TV that, if you sit close enough, might just make you sterile. Someday my tombstone will read, "Here lies Shane Brown. Man, he had a big TV." It is my pride and joy.

So I took it in stride when my folks told me that they'd upgraded to hi-def. Surely it could not be more impressive than my glaucoma-inducing monster. And when I went home this Christmas, I was right. I mean, it's a nice TV, don't get me wrong. But its about 14" smaller than mine. I win. Nyah nyah.

Then I turned it on. My folks have a satellite dish, and with their system, they get somewhere around 100 hi-definition channels. I have local Quad Cities cable. I get 12 hi-definition channels. Curses!

I'm talking to YOU, Mediacom. I love you guys and you're my lifeline to the internet and the world, but you're seriously lacking in the hi-def channel line-up dept. This is unacceptable. Don't let my parents win the technology war. Not my father, who I've personally seen sit through a romantic comedy only because he was to proud to admit he didn't know how to change the channel to a war movie.

So you can imagine my excitement the other day when I started channel-flipping and realized that the Mediacom line-up was different. Omigosh, I realized, they've added some more hi-def channels. What could it be, I wondered as I nervously scrolled through the menu. Comedy Central? MTV? National Geographic? I'm pretty sure I was drooling just a little.

That's when I saw it. Yes, thank you, Mediacom, for your latest much-needed hi-definition addition to your line-up: Home Shopping.

Seriously. I now have QVC home-shopping in brilliant hi-definition. I can now see their crummy little studio and crummy little trinkets with brilliant depth and clarity. Yes, nothing brings out the magical lustre of Cubic Zirconium and Diamondique quite like the glory of hi-definition. Folks, it's as if the hand models are right there in my living room.

The way I see it, my desire to enjoy home shopping in hi-def is somewhere between my desires for C-Span in hi-def and my desires to be impaled by rusty spikes. Worst of all, it means my folks are still winning the technology war. Wait, or ARE they? After all, I DID just get an iPhone. Hrrrrm. It's your move, parents.

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