I Was Sold

TiVo Series 3I drove into Round Rock for a regular visit with Micha. One of the first things I noticed in her living room was a shiny new electronic component prominently displayed atop her television.

She explained it was TiVo, a brand-new product called a digital video recorder (DVR) that recorded live television for later pausing, skipping, and sorting. I wasn’t too familiar with the technology, so Micha demonstrated its features. I witnessed responsive menus, heard addicting pings whenever options were selected, and I came away fairly unimpressed.

“You know,” I sighed, “that’s neat and all, but I already watch too much television as it is. A TiVo is the last thing I want or need.”

However, Micha’s life had changed as a result of TiVo, so she continued her effort to win me over. She told me how she doesn’t watch more television, but more shows, as she wastes less time by skipping through commercials. Everytime I rejected one of the DVR’s benefits, she fired back with a new feature I should consider. This tit-for-tat continued throughout the weekend.

Sunday came around, and along with it came the Super Bowl. That afternoon we drove to the home of Jay‘s boss Eric for a watching party.

Eric’s sprawling home stood high in the hills west of town. When we arrived, our host took us on a tour. Composed of Tuscan marble, Spanish tile, and Austin rock, the abode screamed Central Texas Mediterranean. The living room featured large bay glass windows, affording grand views of the little people dwelling in the foothills slums below. A never-ending staircase took up to the upper floors, and as we rose I caught glimpse of a side room downstairs. Inside I could see a young boy with a mop of blonde hair. Eric explained that was his son. The child was being supervised by a nanny who appeared to hail from the Pacific. If I didn’t already have money on the game, I would have bet she didn’t speak any English.

Upstairs, we were led into The Media Room, worthy of proper nounification because of its sheer manliness. The chamber was high and deep. Stadium seating on one side stood opposite of a bare white wall that begged to be bathed in the candy-color glow belched from the overhead projector. When informed this is where we would watch the game, all of us scrambled to call dibs on the best seats. I staked claim on the dead-middle seat and found out it was already occupied: sitting on the cushion was a wireless keyboard, or something akin to it.

It wasn’t quite your standard 101-keyboard: although it had a full QWERTY keyboard, an array of function keys and an elaborate tracking device took the place of the 10-digit pad. Eric took notice of my examination and slid over to explain the device. Taking it from my hand, he demonstrated its use. After some quick finger strokes, the lights dimmed, the projector burst alive, and surround sound echoed. Eric explained that each key had its own special function: one would churn through the 100-disc DVD changer, another would raise and lower the window blinds.

“And the coolest part,” he said, “is that you can use this thing to control the DVR, just like TiVo!” Those nearby in earshot snapped to attention at that part, their imaginations drooling in curiousity.

Eric’s wife called for him from downstairs. He handed me back the keyboard and excused himself.

Micha slid over with the shit grin that can only come from vindication. “See, even Eric has a TiVo!” she said, “All the cool kids have one. Don’t you want to be cool, too?”

I parried Micha’s blow. “As I said earlier, I don’t need a DVR.”

She chipped away further at my defenses. “Dude, no one needs a DVR. It’s all about ‘want’. TiVo wants you — don’t you want it?”

The crowd around us begged me to listen to reason. “Once you go DVR, you never go back,” they yearned. But their Jedi Mind Tricks wouldn’t work on me, not this time!

Mercifully, the game started, and all attention was on the Panthers and Patriots instead of me. The first half passed quickly, with more action occurring during the commercial breaks than on the field. The headliners were Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, a pairing that had enough musical potential that we all felt possessed to watch. The two sang Janet’s current single “All for You“. This bled into a medley as “Rhythm Nation” started. The duet was then capped by the more-contemporary Timberlake single “Rock Your Body“.

The two strutted and posed alongside one another. And as the show came to an end, Justin foreshadowed the outcome with the lyric, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.” He reached out with his left hand and tore off part of Janet’s black leather bustier, revealing a patch of color that looked just like the rest of Janet’s skin. Then before anyone could process what just happened, CBS changed the view, first to display an aerial shot of the stadium, then to an immediate commercial break.

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake Wardrobe MalfunctionThe room erupted into chaos. Shouts of “Dude!” and “Holy shit!” mixed with the occasional “No way!” filled the air. Suddenly, their screams were directed at me. “Dude! Dude! Rewind!” they pleaed. Suddenly it dawned on me. On my lap was the DVR-controlling keyboard. Everyone had to know if they just saw 38-year-old black boobie. I would be their savior.

I snapped to attention and scrambled to understand the controls. Eric had shown me everything but how to operate the DVR. So I pressed button after button until something happened. All of the other men in the room, who like me hadn’t read the instructions, offered their unsolicited advice on how to run the complicated machinery.

Finally, I discovered the right combination of keystokes, and before us was an echo of the recent past: the latter half of the concert was once again being broadcast. I tweaked the controls further, getting us near to “the moment”. Precise control was difficult, as I was just guessing how to run the DVR.

Finally, we got the image paused correctly, and a two-foot tit was frozen on the wall.

Then the room became quiet as we became aware of a foreign presence in the room.

Standing in the doorway was Eric’s son. He was rubbing his sleepy moist eyes, as he had just woken up in the middle of the night and was looking for mommy. As he blinked through the grogginess, he was attempting to focus on the weird image on the wall.

The silence was swiftly broken. “Out! Out!” bellowed everyone, as the child’s presence was impacting our participation in Boobgate. Eric leapt up, shuttled his boy out of the room, and slammed the door shut. We continued rewatching the image over and over. And as everyone giddily enjoyed their unity with 200 million other people in having witnessed a nanosecond of unintentional porn, I stood up, raised my finger, and announced, “I’m getting a TiVo!”

I was sold.

And everyone cheered in support.

Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly (via Wikipedia)

Social Experimentation

Sims House

In my Austin bachelor days, I wasted much of my time and brain capacity on video games. For awhile, I was into strategy games, and this led to a brief infatuation with The Sims. For me, it was more than just a game. It was a novel way for me to recreate my world in electronic form, populating it with Sims that were based on real people. Little did I know that this innocent pasttime would turn dark (and crispy).

I began by creating a Sim neighborhood from scratch. Then I created a Sim based on myself — a single dude who was unemployed, with fuzzy dark hair and a thing for Libras. Next, I created a Sim based on my then-roommate Joanne and put the two of us in the same house. Soon enough, I had created Sims based on all of my Austin friends, including two pairs of Sims representing my sister Micha, her husband Jay, his best friend Tommy, and his wife April. Like a good diety, I rested, viewed my work and deemed it good. We all lived in one happy Sim world, visited each other’s Sim houses, and generally getting through Sim life without many hiccups.

I spent the occasional hour every now and then playing the game, trying to get my Sims to act like their real-world counterparts. After awhile, I discovered that one could let the game run by itself without interference and that the characters would go about their regular routines with just a slight splash of randomness. So the next day, I woke up, got dressed, fired up the Sims, left it on auto-pilot, and headed off to work.

When I returned home, I discovered that my sister’s Sim was dead, that her house was burned to the ground, and that her husband’s Sim had hooked up with his neighbor’s wife. I was shocked, to say the least. Utilizing the game’s rewind feature to replay the day, I observed the following chain of events:

Micha’s Sim went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Shortly after firing up the stove, the countertop accidentally caught on fire. Her Sim began to panic, running back and forth as the flames licked the curtains and other appliances. Soon, the whole kitchen was engulfed. Instead of running away or calling 911, Micha’s Sim instead decided to participate by catching on fire herself. The smoke detector went off at this point. With haste, a fireman showed up and shot off his extinguisher. Right when he finished, Micha’s Sim was transmorigified into a sizzling pile of ash.

Her hasband Jay’s Sim came home from work to a gutted house. When he entered the kitchen, he encountered his soulmate’s ashes and broke down crying. Within a few game minutes, Jay’s Sim swept up his wife’s ashes, deposited them in an urn, and placed the container on the fireplace mantle (yep, fireplace). He began to rebuild the house, but the task was difficult because of his habit of breaking down and crying everytime he passed by the remains.

The next game day, his neighbor Tommy’s Sim wife April came over to pay a visit and her respects. Within an afternoon, she was making out with Jay’s Sim, and the pain her felt over his wife’s death faded just as quickly.

In horror, I turned off the game, never to play it again. I also vowed to never speak of that day’s events. For many weeks, I kept the secret to myself. Yet one night, I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore. “Micha, I have a secret,” I began. Then, as if in church confession, I poured forth and told her every horrible detail about my social experiment.

When I was finished, Micha was fine with the whole story. In fact, she said that it didn’t surprise her. “I’m such a crappy cook, it wouldn’t shock me if I did do something like that someday.”

When she retold the story to her husband, he wanted to know if his Sim neighbor’s wife was hot. When told it was the Sim based on his real-life best friend’s wife April, his curiousity dried up. I assume that he immediately retreated to his safe place.

Photo credit: The Sims Social Fansite