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Thursday, July 20, 2000

I was living in San Bruno almost twenty years ago when I first got cable. I couldn't afford the premium channels, of which only HBO and Showtime were available, but I would watch the scrambled picture and listen to the lame programming. There wasn't the competition then that there is now, and both channels tended to show the same movies, over and over. It was exciting, seeing the Möbius strip version of The Seven Percent Solution for nothing. I didn't mind the inconvenience of not actually being able to see it, because it was new and slightly forbidden.

I get a similar feeling when I try to watch the streaming video on the Big Brother site. It's not forbidden, exactly, but somehow it seems that it should be. And it's not really scrambled, but the sputtering stop-and-start in-and-out version my pathetic 56K modem transmits to my monitor has the same effect as the old scrambled shows on cable. I wouldn't bother trying to watch it if it weren't something so completely out of the ordinary, and if I weren't deprived of human contact most of the time.

But sometimes I want to slam my hand against the side of the monitor. That was the only way to get a clear picture on the old black and white TV I had in my college dorm room a few centuries ago. Channel 3 in Santa Barbara was the only channel that would come in clearly, but a solid thump on the sturdy old set would get me a fuzzy version of a few Los Angeles stations (all the better to watch Laugh-In on Monday nights and Lost in Space on Wednesdays).

When Big Brother started, I was horrified and somewhat revolted by the prospect of cameras watching every move that ten people made, and microphones eavesdropping on every word they spoke. I couldn't imagine myself watching, but I find myself drawn in by the house guests themselves and their interaction. There's nothing special (that we know of, anyway, until it's revealed later) about these people, and it's not even the most diverse mix imaginable.

Now I'm kind of addicted, a little more every day even, despite the handicaps of a slow connection and a lack of free time. It's a compelling display of human dynamics, especially when they're being themselves and not playing to the camera (which seems to be most of the time, at least when I've been able to see it).

What this suggests is that no matter who it is I'm watching, I apparently have a voyeuristic bent that I didn't know about. These seemingly ordinary people are interesting, not just because they're in an unusual situation, but because they're talking to each other and getting to know each other and learning how to accommodate each other. It's a fascinating process, and the more I get to know these people, the more I like them.

It doesn't matter that I would never know them in real life and would never have heard of them if not for the show. What matters is something I've said many times, and something that's proven by the proliferation of online journals. Every life is a story, and every soul has a tale to tell. If we but listen, we hear something that speaks to us.

David came by this afternoon on his way home from work. He got off early because his boss is giving him trouble about breaking his foot last week. He doesn't want to pay David, but he also doesn't want him to turn it in to workers' compensation. Something is rotten here, but I don't believe my nephew will let it go without a fight. It would be wise for his boss to do the right thing now, before getting into a battle he probably won't win.

David doesn't work on Fridays anyway, because he has a class at the police academy. So he's headed up to the lake after he gets out of class tomorrow, for the last weekend of the big summer blowout (which I missed, for various health and job related reasons). He expects to show up at work Monday morning, though, and let everything play out however it will.

I gave him his birthday present while he was here today. We were on the road (in Wyoming, actually) on his birthday last month, so at that time I gave him a card, a CD and a rain check. I told him he could have anything he wanted, any time, and he said immediately that he wanted a coffee maker. So I'm off the hook for anything really big, but I did get him the best coffee maker I could find. I knew he wanted a black one with a timer, and this one also has a thermal carafe.

We still don't know if and when he's going to be moving (but a housewarming present will be forthcoming then). He hasn't been able to reach the owners of the place they're interested in, even though things seemed so promising just a few days ago. It could be that the owners are away, or they could be ducking a couple of nineteen-year-olds, hoping to rent to someone older. Life's kind of unfair that way, when you're young. You can be the most responsible, steady, focused person, but you haven't lived long enough yet to get full credit for it.

I wasn't nearly as mature and confident when I was nineteen as he is. I don't think I'm as much of a grownup now, to be honest. And I know that I probably wouldn't have the stomach for the fight he's getting himself into. I give up much too easily, I guess, and go with the flow. If I hadn't start settling when I was his age, I might be in a better position now. I fully expect that he'll get wherever he wants to go in life, however the goal changes between the start and the finish.

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Bev, Funny the World, July 20, Blindsided

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