January 14, 2002
Camera Fantastique


I am laying in bed, experimenting with the new digital camera: adjusting the settings, tweaking the controls, taking random pictures of my feet.  In the midst of all the adjusting/tweaking/feet shots, I discover an incredibly groovy feature that I hadn't even noticed until now: when you push the small red "Queue" button on the bottom of the camera and look at the image display screen, you can watch videos!

Not just any videos, either ... but videos of  YOUR LIFE!

I'm not kidding!

The picture quality is sort of fuzzy and indistinct, like the new Bay Area "NBC3" ... especially the black and white videos shot prior to 1960 or so. (Two-year-old Secra splashing around naked in her wading pool, for instance.)  It's like peering into one of those antique kinetoscope machines at The Musee Mecanique. The sound is tinny. There is no re-wind or freeze frame features. Plus you don't have any control over which videos you watch, apparently: it bounces around randomly between decades/generations/personal milestones. One minute you're watching yourself at your Senior Prom, slow-dancing to "Love Is Alive" ... the next minute, the scene shifts to you spoon-feeding Daughter #2 another lump of Gerber Vegetable Medley. One minute you're watching yourself typing warranty cards at Benchmade Knife Company ... the next minute, the video flips back to Mrs. Lehman's first grade classroom, the day the overhead lights exploded. ("Under your desks! Under your desks!" the teacher shrieks, as a roomful of terrified six-year-olds hit the floor.)

One minute you're watching yourself say "I Do" ... the next minute, you're watching yourself say "I Do" again, twenty years later.

It's pretty amazing stuff.

I'm thrilled to pieces, of course ... even in spite of the rudimentary technology, the crappy picture, the lack of programming control. (Although I do think it's too bad that you can't pick which segments of your life you  view. Think of the family mysteries you could finally solve! We could find out once and for all who stole that Christmas Eve bottle of Canadian Club!)  And here's something else: as excited as I am by the possibility of watching scenes from my own childhood -- it will be nice to see my grandparents again -- I'm even more excited about being able to watch my children grow up all over again. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that we couldn't afford a movie camera -- or, as the technology evolved without us, one of those new-fangled video camera thingamabobs -- while the three of them were little. Now, though,  thanks to my wonderful new camera, I'll have a chance to view their Early Tothood all over again: the lusty first cries ... the first 2 a.m. smiles ... the first little teeth ... the first wobbly steps ... the first days of kindergarten ...

(The first chicken pox, the first broken arm , the first bloody sibling battle, the first emergency Parent/Teacher Conference, the first TOS violation, the first shoplifting arrest ...)

I HAVE to tell David about this!!  He's not going to believe it!  Now he'll actually be able to SEE his wife be crowned Miss Fire Prevention 1970! 

(Oh god. Will we be able to watch HIS life, too?? Will I be able to see a Young Ю僱êrvØ¡ pogo-dancing at a Sex Pistols concert?!?) 

I try to sit up  --  I want to run right out to the kitchen, camera in hand, and share my wonderful discovery with him  --  but there is something wrong with my body. When I try to move, nothing happens: I am frozen solid. Pinned flat to the mattress, like a Monarch butterfly to an eighth-grade science report.

And of course that's when I wake up.

I lay there in darkness, momentarily awash in disappointment as sharp and as acute as a toothache.  (Why can't this be the dream that comes true? Why always The Overflowing Toilet Dream?)  I was so happy during those brief, elusive dream moments when I thought I had this fabulous magic camera ... and now it turns out that all I have is a plain, ordinary digital camera, capable of nothing more or less *magic* than uploading photos of my feet to a vast, enraptured Internet audience four minutes after the picture was taken.

Although that's sorta groovy, right there.


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hi jaymi! we have a phone again!
[that's the GOOD news.]
we just can't seem to figure out how it WORKS!
[that's the bad news.]