An ominous warning in nondescript red letters appeared in the lower left-hand corner of the screen as we began to watch what turned out to be an unwatchable science-fiction movie: 99 hours is all it said. Cryptic? Not really. Expected bad news is more like it.
A few years ago, I got a really good deal on an Epson EMP-5500 multimedia projector through eBay, and since then it has been first the primary and then the only "television" in the house. We have a neat little system rigged up in an Ikea shelf unit: an old VCR to act as a television receiver, a DVD player for movies, the sound from everything running through the stereo system, with the projector on top of the stack, casting an 80-inch diagonal image on the wall over the fireplace. It served us well for movies, big-event nights like the Oscars or Election Day. We could even hook a laptop up to the projector for Internet stuff and homegrown graphics.
One of the best features about it, besides the enormous picture, was its relative inconspicuousness: most people didn't notice the projector at all when it was not in use, and there was certainly no big, blank screen dominating the living room all the time.
Well, it looks like the glory days of our jerry-rigged home-theater are coming to an end. We knew that the VCR would soon be a useless as a receiver; we got a four-month reprieve when the government delayed the implementation of digital broadcasting, but June will be here sooner than we know. The stereo is showing signs of decrepitude. The DVD player crapped out last year, and the thirty-buck replacement lasted only a few months, so we have been using my laptop as our DVD player. And now, that 99 hours notice means the lamp in the projector should fail, given average usage, sometime around June as well. Since the lamp runs somewhere around $400, more than I paid for the projector, keeping the old technology running doesn't seem completely attractive.
Which means we have to Make a Decision: A new bulb and another makeshift system? A new projector with a built-in DVD player? A flat screen TV? How about a Mac Mini for playing Hulu and Netflix Watch Instantly movies, and for making Otis's iTunes playlist available? Or one of those stations that lets you dock the iPod? Chucking the whole mess out the window?
I really don't want to deal with it; I know that the end result will (a) cost me more money than I want to spend, and (b) require me to get another Thing in the house - like furniture. For someone who is constantly trying to lighten his load, I seem to be acquiring more than I let go.
On the other hand, we do like us our movies in this house, and the Big Wall Spectration nights have been wonderful social events.
Well, at least I have ninety-nine hours to figure it out.