Archive - Nov 2006

November 30th

The YAD Holiday Gift Guide

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Memo to shoppers: DON'T BUY STUPID SHIT.

Yes, it's that time of year again. Holiday shopping. In which we endure many and varied miseries in order to procure trinkets large or small for friends and family. Which I don't object to doing. It's just all you other fuckers doing it at the same time that drives me nuts. But you're there, and you're doing it, and even though you don't realize it, you need my help.

Because there's a lot of stupid shit out there, and you might end up buying it. And if you do, they'll keep making more stupid shit, because they know there's a stupid market for it. Buy less stupid shit, and we inch closer to utopia.

Today we're going to talk big-screen TVs. If you're planning to give a big-screen TV as a gift this holiday season, you have hundreds of choices available. Plasma. LCD. Rear-projection. Regular projection. 1080i. 1080p. It boggles the mind. But then, if you're getting one as a gift, your holiday budget boggles the mind too. So listen up, you rich bastard. Rich bastards buy stupid shit at a much higher rate, proportionally, than the general population. I'm saving you from yourself.

So don't buy a goddamn Ambilight. I hate to rag on Philips, but Ambilight is, without a doubt, the single most boneheaded useless technological "innovation" since the Orgone Collector. It's a feature on Philips' LCD and plasma TVs, and what it does is this. It shines colored light out from the sides, top, and bottom of your TV that roughly matches the colors on the screen, so that your wall lights up with solid colors while you watch.

No, seriously, that's what it does. It's like it's 1978 all over again. It's a mood TV! It's like having a disco floor... on your wall! It's like it's completely retarded! Why would they add this feature? Well, here's why Philips says you need one. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"It adds a new dimension to the viewing experience, completely immersing you into the content you are watching. It creates ambiance, stimulates more relaxed viewing, and improves perceived picture detail, contrast and color. You’ll feel as if you’ve been taken on an unparalleled journey elsewhere.

No, you won't. You'll have colored lights shining on your walls, and your neighbors will wonder why you still think it's Christmas in August. And it improves PERCEIVED picture detail? That's like saying a sugar pill improves perceived health. Any feature you spend an extra couple hundred bucks on is going to improve perceived picture quality, because nobody's going to admit that the extra money they spent makes their TV look like a fucking lava lamp.

So if the stated reasons behind Ambilight are bullshit, what's the real reason? Simple. Most of the TVs on the market now are plenty good enough for most people. The finer details are important to us nerds, but there are dozens of companies making hundreds of models, and Steve and Jennifer, standing there in the Best Buy with a blueshirt on each arm, cannot tell the fucking difference. So Philips needed a gimmick. A highly visual, highly pointless gimmick that the blueshirts can lie about without putting either of them to sleep.

Sure, when the ocean's on the screen your walls will be blue. And when the Hulk's on the screen your walls will be green. And when we're all watching Giant Sunflower Hour, the single most popular program in the world if TV product photos are to be believed, yes, your walls will be yellow. And then you'll watch a Laugh-In rerun and have a fucking seizure. Or you'll go downstairs on Christmans morning and open the brand new film noir box set you'd had on your Amazon wishlist.

Or you'll be watching the news one night, and realize that the fact that your walls are a vibrant azure doesn't actually bring you any additional comprehension of the issues facing the Middle East, and you'll go and buy a book, bring it home, shut off the TV, and realize you don't have any ambient light to read by. What I'm trying to say here is that it will end badly, so DON'T BUY STUPID SHIT.