Monday, November 19, 2007

Conspicuous Consumption, Sort of

When you get to my age, family members have great trouble finding presents to give to you for birthday and Christmas. The "old scientist" and I always have trouble finding something for each other and we have our birthdays within a week of each other. I'm always up for a book and he's always up for a great bottle of wine, but mostly if we want something we go and buy it. Even the big stuff.

We've both been poor and I don't use that word lightly, for it surely was true. We are both the first generation in our working class families to attend university and that gave us the ability, by dint of luck and hard work, to become, by our parents standards, wealthy although we don't think of ourselves that way. However it is probably true, provided the stock market doesn't crash completely.

Imagine my surprise when my son said to me before my birthday, which comes first in the line-up, " S and V (my daughter and son-in-law) and I want to buy a big screen high definition TV for a combined birthday/Christmas present for you both." What the heck? We can afford to buy it ourselves, for heaven's sake. Apparently I had expressed a wish to have such a thing in passing some time ago and it was glommed onto by the devoid of ideas children. But it's not that simple, there are complications with the set-up, you see, else I would already have done it, no doubt.

After several conversations with both of them, we felt obliged to go out and look at these things. Let me tell you, its stress factor is right up there with buying a new car, which I loathe intensely. Some friends had recently purchased a new set-up so I had conversations with them, read Consumer Reports and did online research before venturing forth, but it's still a nightmare out there. However, after two very long exhausting days, visiting and revisiting six different electronic stores, listening to good salespeople and bad salespeople, we purchased a new Sony TV. As well we had to buy an expensive High Definition DVR recorder which decodes the signal and records programs in High Definition onto a 160GB hard drive, should you wish. They also threw in a "free" Blueray Disc DVD player, since Sony is trying to promote this technology which they invented over the rival HD system. The add-ons we will pay for ourselves. Well one was "free". Yeah, right.

The next trick was to dismantle the perfectly good but not high definition TV-DVD-VCR set-up which we had before, and install the new lot. The old TV was housed in this teak entertainment centre in our family room. But of course the new one could not fit in the old space so is situated on top, involving looking up a little but it's acceptable. So tra-la, you see the new TV in position on top of the old teak stand/bookshelf unit.

The old Video cassette recorder is still here, however the old DVD player and digital decoder box, along with the old TV have moved into our bedroom to replace the TV that was there, which is now homeless and will finally rest in my daughter's old room or my son's bedroom at his house, which will push his bedroom TV down the line to the recycling depot. So you see this was the start of a big reorganization, which involved the connection of many different cables (when is the truly wireless era arriving?) and the moving around of many books in the process.

Now did we need a new TV? Certainly not. Would we have bought one ourselves? Probably, sooner rather than later. After all we are getting on in years and can no longer wait for things to give up the ghost before we go for the new technology, as was our previous wont.

But what house really needs three television sets for two people, who don't even watch a lot of TV on the whole? Why the same one that has three computers, well one really is out of date, and four stereo systems and eight telephones for the same two people. Consumerism personified.

So thank you, S and V and G. We are enjoying the new TV, although we haven't quite mastered the three new remote controls and three thick manuals but I'm sure we'll be on top of it all soon. I wonder if there's anything worth watching.


Eurodog said...

We have four remote controls. Don't know why. I never watch TV but the other day, I found myself alone in the house and wanted to watch the news. I was unable to switch on the TV although I had the correct remote in my hand and hence had to listen to the news on the radio. Afterwards when I asked my daughter to explain , yet again, how to switch on the television, I was told it had already been explained to me many times by several members of the family and could I please pay some attention when explanations are given.

Janice Thomson said...

Well it certainly is a beauty Jmb. My daughter has one too but I don't watch it enough to even consider one. However I am looking forward to getting the new wireless all-in-one computer with only ONE cord.
At one point everything I had was hooked up to satellite - now that's an experience I never want to go through again - I had a tough time learning that remote.
Enjoy your HD! It really is a better picture.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Well, it looks very good on the unit, I must say. Buying something new always involves a lot of moving around of everything else, doesn't it? My [one] TV is very small but I don't watch it a lot. Italians, of course, have TVs in every room and insist on keeping the thing on during meals, which annoys me. I do hope you find lots of programmes worth watching!

Randy Higham said...

TV probably becomes increasingly important. An enthralling account, JMB and I'm thinking of my own tech changes as I say that.

Think that the criterion is if you'll get full use out of it, not whether you may have needed it originally.

Ellee said...

I must say the new TV looks great, we still have a very old fashioned one.
In fact, you say what family of 2 wants 3 tv sets, the answer is my in-laws. They have one in each of their separate bedrooms, as well as the lounge.
Anyway,Enjoy, it looks great.

My mum isn't a big TV addict and I always buy her treats to the theatre in London, something she doesn't buy for herself.

Ian Lidster said...

You shall have to read the manuals yourself since men never, ever read manuals. It's a 'rule'. Something to do with metaphorical castration to have somebody else tell a male how to do something.

Or so I've been told.

Have fun with the new TV. It's looks just fine. We had one just like that in our Grenoble hotel room last year. The only problem was that most of the broadcasts were in French. I am a very bad Canadian, and am fluently 'unbiligual.'

leslie said...

Lucky you for finally getting a new Sony - I think they're the best. I'm still young enough, I figure, to wait out my current TV (also a Sony) that is about 12 years old. It's fine, in my mind. But I would like to get a wireless router for my laptop. It's hooked up like a regular computer right now and sometimes I like to browse while watching TV and there's no TV in my office. I guess that's the whole point - work instead of watch TV, right? lol

Carver said...

I know what you mean about the remotes and number of TVs and telephones. I have that situation myself, although I don't have a new nice TV like that one. I hope you'll enjoy it and I'm sure your children enjoyed getting it for you. The screen looks great. I use my Sony computer to watch DVDs because I like watching on the flat screen sony monitor I have. My computer is my most recent upgrade in terms of newer and better. Have fun with your new toy even if you can't find anything to watch on it.

jmb said...

Hi Eurodog,
We now have four remotes too. Supposedly you can do everything on one but it still seems I use at least two. Not mastered everything yet.

Hi Janice,
It has a very clear picture so if I find something I want to watch it will be great. I am waiting for the wireless society for we surely have a rat's nest of wires behind this set-up.

It was quite the production to set it all up, let me tell you. I hate TV on when there are visitors. Luckily we don't have TV in the living room.

Hi James,
We shall see. Even with hundreds of channels there is often nothing to watch! But the programs we do will be great.

Hi Ellee,
I think I am passing one onto my son so we will only have two. One each! Now who gets the HD one is the question.
Take your Mum to see King Tut.

Hi Ian,
That might normally be true but we are talking about the "old scientist" here so he has already read the manuals and given me the 90 second summary on each.
Well I can read French OK but hardly speak it or understand it so you are not alone in that.

Hi Leslie,
Actually our old TV is about 10 years I discovered in its manual. I am very happy that my laptop is wireless so I can sit in front of the TV and compute.

Hi Carver,
Lots of new tech things to learn here. No doubt I'll master them in time.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Anonymous said...

You do worry about things too much - you shouldn't bother with all that research and so on - just buy the first one you see, it rarely makes any difference in the long term. I even took this approach with buying a car...

Gledwood said...

I think BlueRay is the HD DVD of the future...

there is another format but I've never seen the discs sold...

I was thinking this... as DVDs got ever so cheap "hang on these are low definition. When HD comes in properly (as it only has in Europe in the past year or so) all these low definition discs are going to seem hopelessly outdated..." blah blah

If you want my Xmas present advice:
for boys buy gadgets. never socks
for girls girlie things.
buy books for children



Ellee said...

I've just bought myself an early Christmas present, the letters of Ted Hughes, was he really so awful?

Liz said...

Oh my! Very impressive. But i am dreading the day we have to update. As it is, if something I want to watch is on television and Husband is away, I don't even try to record it. There's nothing I wnat to watch that would be worth THAT much stress!

jmb said...

HI Mutley,
I'm sure you are right, but it's just the kind of person I am. Now buying a car is a truly horrible experience so you might do just as well with the first one.

Hi Gledwood,
The two systems are battling it out here although it has just started really. The Blue Ray player is supposed to make even the ordinary DVDs look better.
Your present buying strategy is probably good advice except I like the gadgets myself.

Hi Ellee,
Good for you. I haven't read the book but always thought it sounded interesting. They certainly were a pair, those two.

Hi Liz,
Life is getting more and more complicated. You just can't go and buy something and plug it in and ta da! In our house it's me who knows how to record and the "old scientist" doesn't because he only masters what he wants to do!

Thanks to you all for visiting and commenting.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Now isn't that odd...

Your last post reminded me of same Candian tribe where status was acquired by public destruction of your own property, as in 'Oh, look I'm so rich I can burn my house.'

And then you go post on that very phenomenon.

We have three TVs in this flat, there are only two of us. I never even watch my bedroom one. It's not even plugged in.

jmb said...

Hi Crushed,
I think you are thinking about potlach, where they give everything away, with everyone trying to outdo the other. Outlawed by the whiteman eventually.
I don't feel too badly about this because our TV was 10 years old and the one ending up in recycling is 32 years old. A real warhorse since it has never needed repair in all those years.
Not much to watch in GB or better things to do?

Tai said...

I had to laugh. Suddenly I find my self in a home with a 52" tv and we don't have cable!
Our tv is dedicated to movies, and frankly, I'd rather read the book!

jmb said...

Hi Tai,
That is too funny. 52 inch and I though 40 inch was decadent. But we do have cable with many channels and not much of interest to watch.

Political Umpire said...

Very interesting - I am looking at just such a device for Xmas, now that prices have come down so much. I have a satellite box that records live tv automatically and has a hard drive so never watch live tv anymore save for the BBC which doesn't have adverts (not that it's possible to watch live tv for any length of time with two small children).

I don't really trust wireless technology anyway; I'm sounding like a luddite but I actually enjoy wiring these things up (Mrs Umpre does not enjoy watching me do it, nor the resultant forest of cables we seem to have everywhere ...)

In terms of there being anything to watch - well, there's always the cricket, and my favourite is the classic channel we have here which shows old matches from the 70s and 80s.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I don't watch it much- just football, really.
My flatmate watches it, while I blog. We have 41 channels, so there's a fair choice.

I just enjoy the medium.

jmb said...

Hi PU,
We are enjoying the recording feature of this new cable box very much and the TV is very good too. We got an LCD one because the TV sits in a very light room. It seems to be winning the battle over plasma here.
My husband would die to have cricket on TV whenever he wanted. It seems he is more obsessed with it now than when he was younger.

Hi Crushed,
well yes football. Even we watch the English league here as some matches are broadcast.


Mauigirl said...

We were just visiting a friend who has acquired a 52" (I believe) plasma TV in High Definition. I must say it is an impressive sight but for now not worth it for us. Our most recently purchased TV is the old fashioned kind and we bought it for only $149! (Since it's so soon to be obsolete). But it plays DVDs and we can watch the few TV shows on it that we bother to watch, and get Movies On Demand on it so it's good enough for now. I hear you about having too many things. As it is we have 2 remotes for the TV and 2 for the stereo. And upstairs 2 more for that TV in our bedroom.

I do think eventually we'll be getting an LCD TV for downstairs (the bedroom one is LCD and the flat screen sure is nice!).

Congratulations on your new acquisition - it will be fun to watch movies and whatnot on such a nice screen!