Wednesday, July 13, 2005

White noise



We watched the movie White Noise with Michael Keaton the other night. It's about an architect whose wife dies tragically and then stays in contact via Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs). For the ghostbuster technology impaired, EVPs are random audio or video recordings that capture messages from the dead (not Jerry Garcia, though he is technically dead).

I had mixed feelings about the movie. It was an interesting premise, but the Michael Keaton character gets a bit too caught up in taping static off from multiple televisions he has purchased and playing back the signals enhanced with mega computer equipment. A normal person would have stared at the static on his television and been pissed that the cable was out.

Coincidently, a day or so after we watched the movie, I saw an episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit. Now, I don't particularily care for Penn and Teller. They are about as amusing as a hang nail. But I am fascinated by the number of times Penn is able to shout, "Bullshit" in a 30-minute period. Anyway, this particular episode was about ghosthunters. And they of course touched on EVPs. In their usual degrading fashion, Penn and Teller made two groups of psychic investigators look like complete morons as they snapped digital photos of closets and gloated over magnetic readings jumping near light sockets. And Penn and Teller had a couple of "genuine" scientists come on the program to tell us that psychic investigators are full of...you guessed it...bullshit and that there is no such thing as a ghost.

I've got to admit that I was disappointed. Just once, I'd like to watch a program about psychic phenonenom that actually shows us evidence of an afterlife. I would take great comfort in that. But most of the time all they can really show us are photos with psychic "orbs" and recordings of static that when listened to 500 or so times begins to sound like a ghostly voice commanding us to "drink Ovaltine."

My mom used to take lots of snapshots with "orbs" in them when I was growing up and we just thought it was due to a crappy camera and having them processed at K-Mart.

I suppose the closest thing to a EVPs I've ever experienced was a few months ago. I was cleaning out a drawer and I found a cassette tape with a "talking letter" my parents had sent me at least 15 or 16 years ago when my father was still alive. I popped it into a tape player and hit play. And though I knew it was a tape sent my parents years before, I was still startled to hear my father's voice say, "Hi Tim, I just wanted to say hello and I hope you are doing well." Then the tape broke. My father has been dead for 14 years. Sure, it was recorded while he was still alive, but it freaked me that that would be the one phrase I'd hear and then have the tape break.
And for some reason it was comforting to hear my father's voice checking in with me to see if I was okay.

It strikes me that the sad thing about the whole desire to communicate with the dead is that we don't generally put the same amount of effort in communicating with the living. Take my mom for instance. She's 80-years old. I love her dearly, but I really don't call her as much as I should. I catch myself getting annoyed when I do talk to her. I'm impatient with her stories about what she ate for breakfast or how her dog chased a squirrel. I can't wait to hang up the phone and get back to my "fast paced" world. So it dawns on me that rather than being put out by the time I am wasting talking to her on the phone, I should be grateful that I still can talk to her.

But, my callous selfishness aside, I still hope there is an afterlife. I just hope it doesn't involve sitting around, shouting random phrases into a microphone in hopes someone will hear me. Maybe, just maybe, by the time I die, they'll figure out a way for us to blog from the afterlife.

I just hope the wood doesn't follow me there.
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