The answering machine gave its familiar Please leave a message after the tone and after moment I started:
“Hey, do you remember that box you lost in grandma’s attic? I found it the other day while sorting through her things. She- passed- I guess you heard, and I’m sorting through everything. She had so many things; you wouldn’t believe all the ceramic cats. You know, those ones that crept you out? A whole collection of cats with little numbers on the bottom; I’ll count them later. –
But that box. I think you said it had pictures, and trinkets from your father, it does, and it also has a few things from grandpa, and some of our old letters. I wish you were here to see them. There are pictures from when you were a kid and living in that ugly brown house you told me about, and some from when you lived in Washington, at least according to the backs. There’s also that pocket watch that Grandpa gave me. The one that he claims was given him during the war by a civilian he helped, and a few of his war medals.
From your father are some of those water colors he drew of the “Saints and Effigies”, as he called them, and a letter from when you were in the hospital the first time. Also our letters from our first summers together, remember those? I always loved getting letters from you, even when I’d written to you online before hand. There was just something better about seeing your handwriting-
I catch myself expecting another from you, like those last few weeks in the hospital, when we’d exchange letters every evening about the little details that happened that day. I placed those in a three ring, and added them to the box. –
But, I just wanted to let you know I found it, and I wish you here-
and I miss you.
I hung up the phone and I looked down at the red light of my answering machine, and I wondered why I had started leaving her messages she would not come home to.
My Dear T.C.
Working in the Museum of Women’s History has me thinking about the way things have changed and developed over the years. I’m working with Video Cassette Tapes and a VHS player, (which started dying around the turn of the century) and I’m watching recordings of a program aired in the 1990′s as I transfer them onto computers in order to “burn” them onto Digital Video Discs.
What I find interesting about this process is that I’m working with technologies that ‘grew up’ together, two of which have their roots in an accidental discovery by Thomas Edison in 1887. According to the Phillips Research website “Edison accidentally discovered in 1877 that he had recorded sounds that resembled a human voice. Edison continued with his experiments and made a sketch of a ‘recording apparatus’ that was built by his instrument maker John Kruesi and was called a ‘phonograph’ by Edison. ”
This laid a foundation for vinyl records which, along with the development of computers and digital technology, laid way for the Compact Disc. By the mid 1980′s CD’s became the favorite audio medium and by 1987 Sony announced the development of the Compact Disc Video (CDV) which would eventually be replaced by the DVD.
The CDV was not the first type digital video disc, however, but was preceded by a similar device called the Laser Disc (LD). According to Culture and Communication“Early optical Laserdisc technology was invented by David Paul Gregg in 1958.” and patented in 1961 and 1969 before being sold to Phillips company for release of feature films to the general public. By 1978 the technology was made public with Jaws as the first feature film available (Culture and Communication). Both the CDV and LD were replaced by DVDs by 2001.
Video Cassettes have a slightly different history. According to the Encyclopedia Americana “The first successful video recorder was marketed by the Ampex Corporation in 1956″ (1999, pp. 100). This was the official functional release of the product for home use, but development for an audio/video recording device in the film industry had started in the 1920′s for ‘talking pictures’.
When you think of our ‘digital age’ with the various ‘tablets’, ‘smart phones,’ and ‘laptop computers’, it’s easy to see how much technology has changed in the past decade alone. My work is, in a sense, translation tests from an old language into the language of the modern world. Much like a writer may take a medieval poem, or a King James Bible, to make the language more understandable to modern readers (including the technology which ‘reads’ the program for viewing.)
By translating these videos into a digital format our hope, as a Museum, is to preserve this program “The Wisdom of the Ages” for future generations, that they may see these shows and think about the things McLaughlin and her guests discuss.
The discs are currently held in the Museum of Women’s History, located 2822 3rd Avenue North in # B3, and the programs cover a range of topics including informational interviews with groups that help the Billings community, and interest episodes where local women are interviewed about their lives and work.
Wisdom of the Ages is a program based on the idea that “The attainment of wisdom is a lifelong process which starts at birth.” with a goal to educate viewers because knowledge allows for discussion and discussion for understanding. By learning about history and the way things change and develop over time, be they technologies or social practices, we can better understand where we are directing our future.
Though I should like to write more about the way society has changed in the last few decades, I have neither the knowledge nor the writing space to do so now. For the moment, then, I hope all is well with you, and that you are learning from your experiences, and gaining more understanding of yourself and of those around you.
Your Traveling Companion
Late in the evening
As the morning draws near
The knowledge of leaving
Each empty pier
Arrival of thoughts
Nostalgia’s sweet call
Lonely and longing
Emerging from shadows
Yellow and white
Yellow and bright
You’ll start meeting people the moment you set foot on a college campus. You won’t necessarily talk to them, but you’ll probably at least start to recognize that guy who doesn’t wear shoes or that girl with the buffalo hat.
You may even attain names of these novel characters and start waving or saying ‘hello’ in passing, or you may realize that the guy seated in the back corner of your Math class, is the same guy that never shuts up in your English class. It’s a small world, and sooner or later these strangers become part and parcel of your college experience, and you start to think that a place is more often defined by the people that inhabit it, than the place itself.
This is true of more than just college. In fact, you’ve undoubtedly met people before coming to college. Maybe you met them during high school because you sat next to each other classes, or endured P.E. together, or even that brief stint in Singapore. Those things don’t really matter, the point is that you’re bound to have encountered other human beings and by interacting with those others you’ve learned about yourself, your own interests and tastes, and your own nature.
Or maybe you haven’t. Because learning about oneself can be a daunting task, and so many of us live little rubber ducks sitting infront of mirrors. These sad creatures, common playthings for children, drift about bubble baths and never dive for their own enjoyment. They can only be guided by another’s, often reckless, hand. Though some speed along the free-flowing streams, even those racing ducks are driven by the currents, and freed by the wills of those whose well earned fortunes are being lain on Duck #2.
Can a rubber duck escape its fate, created as it is to float? Many of the rubber ducks will say they cannot, and are content to be rubber ducks, and they explain that they cannot help but be current-driven toys, and they prefer not to think about their fate but are happy to live as they are made to be.
But some of them find themselves gazing long on their reflections, willing themselves to grow feathers or feet or wings, then, with horror perhaps or resignation, they realize that it cannot change. They realize that they are condemned by the factory mold and by the rubber from which they are made to be a current-driven mockery of a living, breathing mallard.
We are not rubber ducks, however, and we are free to find our molds, and learn what factory we came from, and the kind of rubber we are made from. And we can learn to alter ourselves and develop and grow into more sophisticated beings with our own feet and feathers and bills. But it is a long process of refinement, full of trial and error and risk of failure. So take a moment to gaze deep into yourself, decode who you are and whether you’re up to the task. But while you learn to challenge your fate, please say a short prayer for that poor, fated creature: the rubber duck.
“The Morning Gray”
Taken between 5:30 and 6am on my university grounds. It was a cloudy morning, which rendered the world a little darker than usual though I found the contrast of the flower against the sandstone of the art building to be rather charming.