Monday, May 21, 2007

Curious Bereavement

I have a theory about the people on this earth.

We all know the earth is round. Let's for the moment look beyond the geometry and think that the people who inhabit it form one large jigsaw puzzle. There are roughly 7 billion pieces. Every person alive is a piece of the puzzle. No matter how poor, how rich, how much land they own, they are one piece of the puzzle, equal to each of the others. As the population increases, the edges of the puzzle expand. As people die, their little space disappears and there's a shift, a cosmic shift if you like, as the puzzle is rearranged. At the current rates of growth and attrition, the puzzle is constantly adjusting itself.

One might say it lives. It breathes. It seethes.

Now, getting to the point of my subject title above:

When I first ventured onto the internet, I discovered forums, where like-minded people hung out and messaged each other. My first forum was moderated by a nice lady whose name I've forgotten, but I'll call L. I haven't forgotten L, though. As time progressed, I learned she had grown daughters, roughly where she lived, that she liked cats, baked a lot, simple small details of her life. I knew from the tenor of her messages that she had a wry sense of humor and took her (unpaid) job seriously. I may have exchanged two or three messages with her, and I believe she knew me only as a name, if that.

One day her daughter posted a message. L had died. A heart attack, I think it was. Though we were barely acquaintances, I felt a surprising sense of loss. This person, who had become a tiny part of my life, no longer existed, leaving an empty space in the puzzle.

Other forums, other years, other people I knew-but-didn't-know passed on. And I always felt first surprise, then that odd sense of loss. I don't grieve as I would a family member or close friend, but I miss that presence, the person who had become real because of thoughts shared, personalities made known, messages placed on a medium seen potentially by billions .

I occasionally surf blogs, and when I come across one that interests me I leave a comment. A person I'll call X, a writer, poet, replied to the comment I'd made. That was the sum of our involvement. Once in a while I'd visit X's blog for new posts. There were no updates for months. Perhaps X was ill. It 's more than a year now. The blog hasn't changed.

I do not know X's real name, where X lives, works, anything. I must presume X is dead. This sense of loss is somehow different. We were nothing but two ships passing ... no, not really. Two canoes who for the briefest moment swept the same wave with our paddles.

Was there a cosmic shift? Was the puzzle realigned due to X's disappearance? I'll never know.

I think that blogs exist forever, or as long as people view them. I'll check X's blog now and then. Leave a thought, if nothing else.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fair tv Fare

Note: Some people use capital letters when abbreviating the word television, but my use of small letters explains my regard, or lack thereof, of the medium.

Some years ago I read that to be a true tv snob you must watch all of the programs, or none of them.

The former being impossible for me, I chose the latter.

For a long time I watched nothing, and whenever someone said, "Did you catch X on tv last night?" I could honestly reply, in true tv snob fashion, "Oh, I don't watch television."

There were occasional inroads. My daughter, working nights at the time, watched afternoon soap operas and I began watching The Young and the Restless with her. I still watch to this day, and make no excuses for doing so.

Then there were shows like ER and NYPD Blue. I loved the tension of those early ER shows. I will always remember one episode where at the climax I burst into tears. A movie, tv show, or book that makes me cry has rare power. That episode was, for me, an "eleven." (on a scale of one to ten....)

I stopped watching ER when it became too depressing for me. NYPD Blue, though I watched, and enjoyed, from beginning to end.

At one time my desk sat in a large room that also had a tv set. For a time I shunned that tv set, though I only had to look slightly to the side to see it. Then I discovered British mystery series on A & E.

What a wonderful variety! I watched them all: Prime Suspect, A Touch of Frost, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Lovejoy, Dalgliesh, Inspector Alleyn, Brother Cadfael, Ruth Rendel Mysteries, the gritty Cracker--my favorite. (perhaps others I've forgotten...)

Alas, we moved and things changed, my ability to view these shows while I worked at my computer came to a regrettable end.

But then came the autumn of 2000, the autumn of the Olympics in Sydney, the autumn of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the autumn I spent several weeks in a hospital.

Almost overnight I went from tv snob to tv slob.

I watched EVERYTHING that was on. All the game shows, all the sitcoms, all the dramas: Cops shows, lawyer shows: Ally McBeal, The Practice, Family Law, scenic shows, e.g. Baywatch! on and on ad nauseam. The good, the bad, and the really ugly, it made no difference to me, I was passing time and for once in my life had not the will to read. (As if that were some sacred act not to be performed in the mundane setting of a hospital.)

My tv extravaganza came to an end when I came home. I tried to keep up with some of the better shows, but my interest soon waned. I had no patience left for silly sitcoms, though I always made time for Frasier.

Now I've come to that point where I recall important times of my life by the tv shows I watched. Who can forget the summer of 1980 when Who shot JR? was a question that held an entire continent in thrall? (This, before my tv snob days!) And how about the years I spent watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers with the young ones?

I remember books I've read, some the age I was when I read them The same with movies. But television goes farther than that. Because of the nature of the beast, the long running shows mark a passage of time, for some the change of an era. My son was a kid when he began watching The Simpsons in 1989. Almost 18 years later he still watches it when he can. Heavens, I aged 12 years during the course of NYPD Blue.

And now this entry, like a tv show that's been on too long, is losing it's original intent. I digress easily when it comes to this subject. I'm not qualified to criticize tv shows. I know what I like, what I find good. What others like, and watch, is their call.

I will admit there's lots that good. Even fascinating. But more that's bad. Even plain stupid. Would I miss it if it vanished?

I honestly think not.