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Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Suddenly I find myself in the middle of a situation that I do not wish to be in the middle of. If I had someone to pass off to, I'd be happy to yield the balance of my time. But here I am, stranded on a dead end street, holding the bag and the whole ball of wax. And on top of that, my metaphor regulator seems to have flipped its wig.

Y'know, I don't really want to go into great detail about this, because it's boring enough to be the one doing it. I can't imagine much interest in reading about it, so I'll just say that it involves the sputtering workers comp situation (that I did write about in excruciating detail last Friday), and the fact that the employee involved had another accident at work yesterday (apparently he was fooling around and wrenched his wrist) and quit today — even though we have a note from his doctor saying he can come back to work.

There, that's a rasher of nothing boiled down to a weak broth. The only part that matters is that I have to waste my time chasing down details and filling out forms, and in the end we're probably going to have to pay his doctor bill anyway. This is just the kind of make-work item that bloats my to-do list and makes the piles of papers on my desk grow precipitously high.

Part of my brief (but dramatic) meltdown yesterday was a reaction to getting a big assignment at the end of the day. Detailed letter to type (and we know that the first version is followed immediately by the first revision, ad nauseam). And color copies to be made, meaning two trips to Office Depot today, one to drop them off and one to pick them up, since they had to be mailed this afternoon for a meeting Saturday.

Suddenly the Boss has decided he wants text labels on all the photos he sends me. He tapes two pictures each to a blank piece of paper, leaving just enough room for me to cut and paste (literally, in this case) a few lines of description. It's amazing to me that with all this tape and paste spattered all over the sheet, the prints still come out looking good enough for a sales presentation.

So I worked into the twilight last night, typing labels for twenty-six sheets of photographs, and getting them to look as presentable as possible. And this was between revisions of the letter that went with them. Such is the glamorous life of a guy who has the "luxury" of working at home, and thus being on call 24/7. And it's why I don't feel compelled to keep my nose to the ground (or whatever) for a full eight hours every single day.

from another angle

I was thinking about what I said Sunday about the difference between TV and movies. A movie made for the big screen is a different kind of experience on television, obviously, because the connection between the audience and the film is so much more intimate.

In the theater, you're aware of the people watching with you, and that colors your reaction to what you're seeing. The most immediate relationship you have is with the person sitting next to you. (Or, if you're short like some of us, it might be with the person sitting in front of you.) It's a unique experience, where everyone is focused on the same lights and shadows.

At home, it's you and the TV screen, one-on-one. But you're in more familiar surroundings, and you're more in control of your environment. You can pay attention to whatever degree the characters engage you. Personally, I feel closer to TV stars than movie stars, because they come right into my home (in some cases, way too often).

The HBO movie Wit that I watched over the weekend is an example of a drama that probably works better on the small screen. It's nearly a one-woman monologue by Emma Thompson, who comes across so eloquently under the direction of Mike Nichols. Nichols and Thompson wrote the script, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson.

The television script takes the stage play and uses some magical editing to bring you into the mind of a woman under treatment for late-stage ovarian cancer. As her body deteriorates, her mind goes through changes as well, and the viewer shares the experience, as closely as one person can feel the suffering of another. It's partly the acting and the direction, but it's also the medium.

This would be a different movie on the big screen. TV has a lot of faults, but an experience like this makes up for a lot of them. As depressing as the plot description sounds, it's an uplifting encounter with a memorable character, and you develop a personal bond with her because she's right there in your living room.

I love going out to the movies. Comedies are funnier when there are dozens of people laughing with you, and the scale of the big screen can make the imposing seem more impressive. But for connecting with real people in real situations, television can make the real seem more real.

If art involves finding different ways to tell the truth, let's not dismiss TV as a mere appliance. In the right hands it can take us so far beyond the trite and mundane fare that gives it such a bad rep.

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