Placing the Past

I’ve been a landlord for a bit over a year, with a tenant I sometimes hear but rarely see. It can’t stay this way forever, but for the moment it’s an easy situation.

And one of the joys, besides giving my friend a place to live that was nicer than under a bridge, was introducing him to the advantages of the cable-less household. I gave him a spare Roku stick and showed him how to log onto our network, and now when he comes home at night he can watch whatever he wants, and there’s plenty. He’s just become another 65-year-old guy, glued to the boob tube at night.

I was given a friend’s cable password a few months ago, just to see if I could manage to watch baseball, but the cable companies know all about this. I did take advantage of it a few times to watch a couple of network shows I’d be unable to otherwise see without paying something (either a subscription to Hulu, which is an excellent platform but just one more than necessary, or else just buy the episodes on Amazon), but my friends have apparently changed the password. They probably forgot about me, and I certainly gave them no indication I was using it (I told them right away that it didn’t work with baseball).

For a few minutes yesterday, I played with alternatives, thinking I’d kind of like to keep up with the seasons I’ve already started watching. There’s nothing remotely illegal (this side of password borrowing, anyway) I’m interested in, and the truth? I picked a couple of TV shows from the smorgasbord, because I had to eat something. I’ll find something else.

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Every morning, too, I head for JustWatch.com, which lists the latest offerings from the streaming platforms. Sometimes I make notes of things I might want to watch, and sometimes I do, but it’s mostly just an exercise in possibilities. Every day, I update my personal TV Guide, I guess.

You know what’s funny, though? This site lets you filter platforms, so I can set it up to show me only Netflix and Amazon, for example; I don’t need to see what’s on Crackle or Showtime. If I change the filters, though, add Hulu because I’ve decided to try a free trial (or Starz, or one of the others), then return to the bookmark, the changes have been lost, of course, unless I make a new bookmark.

This might be hard to follow. Not the bookmark-filter thing—every filter just takes me to a separate page on the site, so that bookmark retains the original filters until I change the bookmark. You get it.

What’s interesting to me is the analogy to memory, or rather, to learned behaviors. We all have routines. Sometimes we change them, randomly, progressively, or for specific reasons. Instead of eating carbs for breakfast, you switch to protein, whatever. You take a shower first thing in the morning, not last thing at night. We’ve all been there.

And we know how hard it is. We’ve got to change the bookmark. If we don’t, we’ll just slip right back into old behaviors and maybe not even notice. It’s a neat analogy, at least to me. Real change requires rewiring. That’s how we form habits, and this is an old science, but the idea of filters just tickles me, somehow.

My appreciation of this new viewing set-up here, my projector, has dimmed for a very human reason, one I didn’t expect: it’s just too damn lonely.

I haven’t been able to persuade either John or Julie to watch much of anything with me. If they want to see it, sure. Everyone appreciates the big screen.

But no one will watch what I’d like to watch, and I guess that’s the way it is. My wife would rather read, her only video coming from short clips. My son has his own tastes, appropriate to his age and era.

That doesn’t stop them from making suggestions to me, as if my craving for company compels me to accept the best offer. John would sit in here and watch hours of animated web series with me, but it’s just that I’ve already been 11 years old and I’ve moved on (seriously; I hate to be this old, but there’s a whole generation of 30- and 40-somethings whose humor is oddly stuck in middle school).

Last night, though, after some weeks of pleading, I agreed to watch Interstellar on the big screen with John. I put it off because I’ve seen the damn film probably three times already, and it’s nearly three hours in length.

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It’s a great movie. So many fascinating ideas, right up my alley, and I admit it was fun to see it spread out in all its glory. I remain unclear about its manifestation of the dimension of time as a physical space, although this concept keeps popping up on my radar, so obviously I’m interested. I’ve been interested ever since I read about Billy Pilgrim getting unstuck in time, I guess. The idea of wandering over to the past for a bit, then around the corner to a distant future, then back to another past…and all of this, in the film, represented by bookshelves.

It just made me wonder a little, these days, as I spend some time on self reflection, more life to remember than look forward to (probably, although I’m not ruling out living to 120). It’s not that I’m suddenly questioning my memories; been doing that a long time now.

It’s just this idea of filters, and bookmarks. I just wonder how many of my routines, my activities of daily living, have been bookmarked with certain filters applied, and how many times I try to change things up, and how many times I forget to reset the bookmark, so I keep coming back to the same place, so familiar and still so wrong.

Chuck SigarsComment