the opinions of an occasionally sane man

Home Theater:
Your Real Girlfriend

by Nicholas Bhasin






As a journalist, I am constantly looking for ways to better myself and, more importantly, my electronic equipment. I say "more importantly" because people don't care what kind of awful human being you are when you have lots of shiny, black boxes on a rack in your living room that play music and movies.

There's an old story that historians like to recount about a man who had decorated his modest apartment with Nazi paraphernalia, commemorative KKK figurines, Henry Ford posters, and a huge sign that read, "Don't come in here unless you like to get sodomized." Well, this man had a woman over that he was planning to kill, as the historians tell it. She was appropriately disturbed by the colorful design of the place, and she said, "You horrible, disgusting -- (gasp) A new stereo! I love you!" And that man's name was -- Ronald Regan. And that woman's name was -- Eleanor Roosevelt. I know it's hard to corroborate the story which might be why historians love it so, but the message still lingers: Get new electronic equipment.

My journey began on Christmas when I got a DVD player. No, Mommy and Daddy didn't get it for me. Santa did. It was completely unexpected, because I asked for a girlfriend (and some dignity). But Santa plays by his own rules, the sadist. When I awoke on Christmas morning, someone had stolen my cookies, but had also left a DVD player under the tree.

So, I'm watching a phat DVD on my fat TV with a phat bowl of chocolate pudding on my fat stomach -- I mean my phat stomach. And I'm wondering, as I often do, why chicks don't dig me. Then I realize that I haven't spent nearly enough money on home theater equipment. Hell, if Ronald Reagan can get chicks, so can I.

Besides, anyone who's anyone has an impressive home theater entertainment system bonanza. And if they don't, they're probably homeless, just like that commercial says. "Get a home theater system. What are you, homeless? The world hates you." Can you believe the pressure? It's getting hard to watch an episode of "Friends" without killing myself. And the commercials are pretty bad, too. Zing! Score! Me: one. "Friends": millions of viewers each week.

So I start saving up for a receiver and a big set of speakers. Now, when I say, "saving up," I mean "spending money on lots of other things and not saving up." This way, when I've saved up enough money to buy the expensive equipment, I actually have zero money in the bank. Some see this as counter productive. I see it as living my life no matter what the Gen X Dot-Commers say about it. You bury yourself in work and money. I'm going to slack off and live beyond my means. Pow! He scores again! Me: two. Fascist asshole Dot-Commers: unlimited potential for growth in business.

None of my efforts to save up matter, because, apparently, I've been deluding myself as to the cost of this equipment.

I figure I will spend a few hundred, and that will be that. Oh, no! Receivers can cost up to $900 and speakers can cost up to a million. I'm in way over my head. So when it comes time to buy, I get that terrible feeling in my stomach. You know that feeling where you don't need something and it's ridiculously expensive and all logic dictates that you wait until your financial situation is more stable but you know that you're about to spend the money anyway? That's the feeling I have.

So I'm in complete agony while the salesman is explaining the differences between the $400 receiver and the $700 receiver because I'm about to spend money I don't have. Now, let me explain something to you about salesmen. They hate you, but they love your money. It's just like your kids. And if you don't have money, well then they hate you even more and make you feel guilty about it. It's just like your college alumni fundraiser. So I tell the salesmen that I'm broke, and that I need a low to mid-end receiver. Then he says, "I understand where you're coming from. I'm just like you. But if you don't buy the most expensive receiver you can, you're betraying your home theater system, yourself, and your country. You might as well throw your DVD player and small child down a well, set fire to the American flag, throw the flag down the well, and then urinate on everything in the well. You see what I'm saying, man?" He's pretty convincing, but after an hour or so I'm able to persuade him that I love America, and I don't want my children to grow up "all types of fuckin' retarded." I'd like something that's very good and will last me a long time for a reasonable price. He looks at me like I've just committed a hate crime, and says, "Fine."

So I get the Sony STR845POOP receiver. I swear to God, that's the model number. I don't know why they added the last 4 letters, but they did. Maybe they wanted to differentiate it from the slightly more expensive model, the STR845BUTTASS. Again, I don't know why they added the last 7 letters to that model either when they could have just changed the number of the first three letters. Anyway, this baby's got all the bells and whistles. It's Dolby Digital ready and it's got plenty of optical inputs and a fancy remote control that comes with its own manual. And that manual comes with its own physicist who doesn't speak English but gets all the girls, just like in "The Cosby Show."

In case you're wondering, the better receivers are the Yamaha's. They're big and dense and intimidating. They'll come over while you and your wife are asleep, have sex with your wife, cook you both breakfast, eat your share, have more sex with your wife, promise to drive you to work, but drop you off in Humiliation Ville,because that's your new home, sucka. But the Sony has more buttons. And I like buttons, buttons you can press and talk to. Buttons that let you know that you're still a human being, despite what the refrigerator handle and bathroom sink faucet have been telling you.

Then come the speakers. Holy shit. Speakers are very upsetting. And for this digital surround sound home theater business, you need six of them. They curiously call it the 5.1 channel speaker system, but 5.1 isn't just one tenth more than 5 to the speaker people. It's five plus one. And that doesn't equal 5, like I used to think. That equals six.

So in order for all this madness to work out, I have to buy six freakin' speakers. Two in the front, two in the back, one in the center, and a subwoofer. The subwoofer puts out all the bass. First question I ask? What the fuck am I going to do with all that fuckin' fish? Turns out they're talking about something else.

So I'm thinking, goddammit, I need all six of those speakers or I am never going to enjoy another CD or movie for the rest of my life. And you can forget about the ho's. So, keeping the ho's in mind, I decided that $600 was my limit. Now, I could have gotten all six for $600, but I was told that they'd be not so great. Or I could have gotten one pair for $600 and then built it up. I wrestled with this for a while because I constantly require instant satisfaction. Maybe I'm just a product of my generation, but I can't wait for anything. Want me to wait to be seated? No thanks, I'll eat somewhere else. Want me to have a seat, the doctor will be with me in 5 minutes? No thanks, I'll put some masking tape on it. Want me to hold my horses and wait 'til we get to know each other better? No thanks, my roommate gets pretty drunk.

As it turns out, I find a good deal that gets me 3 speakers in my price range and 2 for free. I decide to put off purchase of the subwoofer because I still don't know what I'm going to do with all that fuckin' fish.

So now, I've spent around a bunch of money that I don't have, but who cares. I can sit alone on my couch eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch at 3 in the morning and hear sound coming from all directions. Suddenly I'm warm, and happy, and I do have a girlfriend who loves me despite how ugly I am on the outside -- and inside. Zing! It's a hat trick! Me: 3. My self-esteem: bottomless.



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