Friday, November 14, 2008

When Nature (and Technology) Attacks...

I keep thinking that I should be writing about the new "Quantum of Solace" Bond pic or trying to explore the realm of WoW (and what the hell is the Lich King??!), even comment on my wacky, pathetic (me not the evening) bowling adventures, anything funny, sci-fi, and/or entertainment related because that's what will entertain...but no...the world dictates a new level of seriousness.  In all seriousness.  There is a big fire going on in Montecito as we speak. The Tea Fire.  That's right, another piece of bad news (though this time it doesn't include the words 'tough' or 'economic').  It has been raging since 6pm last night and I am still confused how I didn't hear about it until this morning (I guess I was off the grid or did no one on twitter care?), no less in an email from my dad, who lives in Vancouver, but understandably in the 'know' as one of our best family friends live in a beautiful house now threatened by fire.  There have been countless devastating fires in California over the past year and a half, it seems like a never ending cycle: Malibu, Canyon Country, San Diego, even a small one beside the Getty and the 405!  I've always been transfixed by the images of the monstrous, angry flames consuming everything in it's path, switching between channels to find out more.  But I now realize how the impact of such an uncontrollable, devastating attack of nature doesn't truly hit you until it touches you or someone close to you.   

It's interesting how we as human beings deal with tragedy.  We seem to protect ourselves from feeling too much by subconsciously filtering the devastating visuals.  We stare at the screen and shake our heads and then we reassure ourselves that we do care by making broad comments like, 'how horrible', 'so sad', 'those poor people', but that's the extent of it. Most of us don't pick up the phone to the local Red Cross and find out how we can help.  Think of all the tough news stories we are exposed to on a daily basis, especially when delivered by those CNN/ AP reporters entrenched in war zones.  If we truly comprehended what they were witnessing, what was truly transpiring, I don't think that we could take it.  So our brains filter...unless it becomes personal.  

Our house in Sun Valley was threatened by a huge fire last summer.  I had been there only the week before and receive a Sunday night message from my mother semi-calmly telling me that we might lose the house.  'The house' is my where I was married, where I spend my family vacations, where I am most happy just curled up on the coach with my golden retrievers.  When I allowed myself the silence to process that 'maybe', my eyes suddenly welled up, my throat tightened and my face became hot, ie. a flood of tears was moments away if I let myself go there.  But I didn't, I mean it's only a house, I told myself.  We have insurance, everything can be replaced, everything will be fine.  But you suddenly realize what it feels like to be held hostage by the direction and force of a gust of wind, by nature.  It feels pretty crazy.  And that's, I believe, what the news media needs us to feel so we stay engaged.  They need to make it personal so we keep watching.  KTLA just did that by having their CyberGuy ask viewers to follow him on twitter and send him personal stories if they are currently affected by the fire. Wow- someone promoting twitter on a mainstream news program as a tool to gather stories, a tool to make things personal- albeit in 140 characters or less.  So, because I watch KTLA every morning and like most of the tech stories Kurt does, I started following him, and a few hours later my email alerted me that he was following me.  My initial instinct was to find out if my family friends wanted to share their story about the Tea Fire but then I quickly chastised myself.  It's personal, and it should stay that way.   

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