The Collector Of Many Things

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I think we need a social media platform devoted to whining about our various (temporary) sicknesses. Summer or winter. That’s really the most useful part of being online, or at least it feels that way sometimes (these times). A place to just say, hey, I’m sick. Feel sorry for me.

Then again, this would probably prompt one of the oddest phenomena I’ve found in this new/old world of everybody knowing everybody else’s business. It’s the friend on the other side of the country (possibly the planet) who listens to your story from, say, Seattle of your current respiratory status, and this person in, say, Florida responds with, “You’ve got the same thing I had last week.”

That’s kind of crazy, right? Stay in your lane, fellow sickees. Those Florida bugs are quite different (much bigger, for one thing. Also, they apparently drink a lot). My cold is personal.

My wife has been the big sufferer this week. She tried to rest over the holiday weekend, taught on Tuesday, then collapsed on Wednesday, canceling classes and choir and staff meeting and a bunch of other stuff. First time, as I recall.

I had a bit of a cold, just some sneezing, nothing unusual for winters and not unexpected given that we share a bed and a sink and other stuff and we’re seriously too lazy to be careful. We just assume that what comes around, goes around. I napped quite a bit on Tuesday, just worn out, but Wednesday was better and I could run errands, and yesterday I walked up to the drugstore and back, less than a mile but a good sign.

Last night I learned some stuff, directly from my lungs, who weren’t enthused about breathing. They were fine, but sore. Dry cough. Scratchy throat.

A little worse today, but as we talked about this morning—this all you got, winter cold? I can manage. I’ve probably had 2-3 bouts of worse colds in the past year. I shake a lot of hands during the week, for a guy who works from home. Hugs, touches, human stuff. Passing colds around is a tolerable side effect for socialization, as far as I’m concerned, given the usual caveats about immunocompromised, elderly, etc.

Good news is that I’m pretty hoarse, and the house is empty. I could do a really good John Wayne impression this morning. Just would have to think of something funny. John Wayne reading Dr. Seuss? Shel Silverstein? Silver linings.

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Here’s a blast from the past, just occurred to me. In 1979, I had dropped out of college my junior year and got a job doing data entry on a computer network. I’m not sure what I was thinking, other than it seemed stupid to major in theater when I just wanted to act. There’s probably more there, about continual boredom and disinterest and maybe some anhedonia (lack of ability to find pleasure in things). It’s sort of a textbook picture of an addict, in fact.

I’d done a fair amount of work with video production in high school, when we had a few reel-to-reel video recorders (called VTRs at the time, for Video Tape Recorder, cassettes not on the home market yet). I was always fascinated by the ease of videotape, from the eighth grade on (at least).

So in 1979, when I was a college dropout with no immediate future, I read the employee handbook and noticed they had an incentive pay system, which was being ignored. It’s been my experience that most people aren’t particularly excited about the chance to make more money by working harder and faster. It’s kind of a disconnect, not a lazy thing. I never disconnected, and I was 20 years old and making close to $20,000 a year just typing on a terminal, because I never took breaks and saw dollar signs in my head.

Roughly the 1979 version of a VCR. I’d love to have one of these, which is part of the problem.

Roughly the 1979 version of a VCR. I’d love to have one of these, which is part of the problem.

So that spring, I found a VCR (finally) that was being phased out of a JC Penney store (where my mom worked, and had a discount). I borrowed my brother’s Penney’s card and bought this, for around $600 (half price), and just paid his installments for a year or so. All I could do was record shows, like The Tonight Show and some news programs, the occasional movie or Saturday Night Live. Blank tapes cost $20, twice what I made in an hour. There were some full-length movies available, but priced out of my range.

Six months later, I decided spontaneously to move to L.A. and try standup comedy, so I sold my VCR to a former teacher. He had young kids and they got a lot of use from it (he was also a high-tech interest guy, one of the computer science instructors in high school back in those Bill Gates-Paul Allen days of glorified typewriters).

And when he finally ordered cable TV, he told the technician to run the cable through the VCR, and he got push-back. It’s funny to think about. Laws hadn’t trickled down quite yet about fair use in terms of home recording, but my friend wasn’t having it. He got his hook-up (which, of course, we could all do ourselves now, probably) and so could record HBO or whatever else he was getting.

We all got there. I’ve still got VHS tapes downstairs that I recorded from free premium channel weekends and the like.

And now we’ve got DVRs, either physical boxes in our homes or virtual recordings, available on demand. People time-shift now, so sometimes they need to save shows, although even that seems less appealing. The shows will always be there, right?

The above are a tiny part of my collection, although most of these I’ll probably hang on to. Some favorites.

Not always. Movies come and go on these platforms, and I try to keep up. I make a list. And sometimes I record one of these Netflix or Amazon or HBO shows/films for possibly later viewing. This is a jury-rigged system, using screen capture software (which means I have to play the entire movie while recording it, meaning that sometimes I put a towel over my monitor while I do that).

I really don’t understand it, other than an urge to collect an art form I like. It’s fun to poke through my home library and find favorites, just waiting for me to watch. Which I almost certainly won’t, but maybe.

Again, I don’t know what the current law is and I don’t care. I’m not about to bootleg DVDs. I’m just recording for later viewing, which lots of us do. I do it in a strange way, but it’s essentially the same.

Some of them I’ll eventually delete. I have some DVDs and Blu-Rays I’d like to transfer, although that involves work. Mostly I just find something that shows up on Netflix, usually an old favorite but occasionally something new I’m interested in, and I just save it. Maybe one day.

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It’s just on my mind, with all the Kondomania and sparking joy. I’m a hard-ass tosser of old stuff I won’t use. My wife is more sentimental. We still have a bunch of junk that brings no joy.

And so much of that can be digitized. Show me a picture from 100 years ago of your great-grandparents, a fading sepia photo with cracks and stains. Scan it, run it through Photoshop, clean it up nicely, up the resolution and the shadows and highlights, and create a perfect digital replica, safely stored in the cloud in a few places and on site in a few places. By any standards, this is a perfect replica of a moment, long ago, when light seeped through a lens and implanted itself on a piece of chemically-treated film (possibly a plate, given the time period).

So we can toss that original picture, right?

I mean, I would. In an instant. If the need to collect and save is strong in us, then the obvious solution, practical, ecological, safer, is to store these things in digital form. Do I really have affection for a bunch of DVD cases?

But that’s probably not going to happen, or anytime soon. But I have a goal. Also I want to call it Kondomonium but that doesn’t seem to be taking off.

Chuck SigarsComment