Here Come the Christmas Catalogs

November 19 2007, 1:13 AM

I'm pretty immune to Christmas catalogs by now. Ten years ago, the Neiman Marcus catalog was the standard. It wasn't like I was going to buy anything in it, it was just fun to look at and pretend I lived in a universe where the items on display were within my reach. Two days later, I forgot all about it. This year, the Listen Up Catalog may be the one to beat. Page after page of gorgeous room displays -- floor to ceiling windows that look out on beautiful mountain views, bright, comfortable modern furniture, rugs, kitchens and bedrooms -- and of course the largest and most creatively placed large widescreen tvs imaginable. No matter how much you love your home, you'll be thinking, "I wish I had done that" with your living room or kitchen. That space above the range where you keep your microwave? Microwave gone, flat screen tv takes its place. 50, 60 and 70 inch displays. Buttressed by the most powerful names in receivers and speakers. The Macintosh Home Theater page just about did me in. Then I saw the price tag: $8,000 for the receiver alone. I still have and use the Macintosh 200 watt amp I bought from Listen Up in 1977. There's nothing better. But, this new one is designed for use with a 7.1 channel home theater or in a 5.1 system with two channels available for a "second stereo zone."In a way, it's like the Neimans' catalog. Things that look beautiful with price tags for only the strong of heart and wallet. Two years ago, I began waiting for the prices to come down so I can get a 46" or 50" lcd tv. I'm still waiting. This catalog just shows that while prices may be coming down at the chain stores, their products will be obsolete once they reach an affordable level. And once you see what's possible with the new technology, and view it set in kitchens and living rooms filled with vibrant colors and fabulous views, you won't just want the new tv. You'll want the house that goes with it. It's not my year for the big tv and the glamourous couches, or a great new house, but the catalog is a keeper, if only to remind me of what's possible, should I win the lottery. There are two items within a medium price range: A clock radio with wireless to stream internet music that also has a built-in iPod dock. If the $499 price tag causes you sticker shock, there's another one for $229.There's nothing wrong with just window-shopping, and if you're in that mindset, it's one catalog you'll enjoy reading before putting it aside with a sigh, and saying to yourself, "Maybe next year."