Looking for some good work music? Go pick up Richard Ashcroft’s Alone With Everybody. Melodic, relaxed rock, great vocals, outstanding production. Looking for something to laugh at after you watch the news? (“Don’t look at that war over there that we’re not winning. Don’t pay attention to those body counts, or that spiralling deficit or the thrumming beat of inflation, or our weakening dollar. Look to the sky. Look to…a new space program! Yeah, that’s it!” I call bullshit.) Go Get Your War On.
Weapons Of Mass Confusion. The back panel of our new receiver scares me. It looks like the control room wall of a Russian nuclear power plant; it’s filled with ports and connectors and diagrams silk-screened onto the black metal that are supposed to “help” me figure out how to hook this thing up in audiophile-speak. There are whole 10-page chapters in the manual focused on subjects like “Plugging in Your Receiver” and “Attaching The FM Antenna.” I feel like I’m sitting down to an SAT again. Once I navigated through the dissertation on the six different types of cable it’s possible to use, (as far as I can tell, Optical > S-Video > Coax > RCA) and had a rudimentary understanding of where to put them (back in the bag with the receipt, because invariably I bought the wrong one), I turned to the chapters on “Using Your Tuner,” or “What Are All These Flashing Lights For?”, bypassing the volume on “Configuring Your Receiver” because I don’t have the required thirteen surround-sound speakers nor the patience to stab at the little buttons on the front panel.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this thing, and I’m forever indebted to my sister for giving it to us for Christmas. It’s just that over the last ten years, in the absence of money and high-end audio equipment, I’m out of the loop on all this stuff. I’m thinking that the technology got a lot smarter and I got a lot dumber. I kind of feel like my parents when they are confronted with the blinking 12:00 display on the front of their VCR. Somewhere along the way this stuff got really complicated. There are seventeen different types of surround sound and a whole college-level course required to understand the differences. Not only do you have to drop a month’s salary on one component, you have to blow the Christmas bonus on the cabling to go with it. These days there’s interconnect wire thicker than my arm to connect your components; one foot of speaker wire is $3 and weighs heavier than anchor chain. After looking through the rows of boxes of gold-plated this and double-shielded that I found the normal section and picked up a regular S-video cable for the DVD player and a splitter to RCA-jack cable for the iPod. Grand total: $9.