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Is e-mail really discourse? Some events need paper and pen.

Byline: Chris SINACOLA


What is the news? At break of day we put on coffee, check our e-mail, catch weather and traffic reports. The "TODAY" show is as insipid as ever, as expected. We watch anyway. Must make sure no nukes are on the loose, that coups are limited to small African nations or Pacific islands, and will not affect markets or our commute. Take a moment to note any celebrity breakups for water cooler talk.

Is this an obsession or an illness? Neither, really. It is a sanctuary, one to which millions scurry morning and night, and a few afflicted af·flict  
tr.v. af·flict·ed, af·flict·ing, af·flicts
To inflict grievous physical or mental suffering on.

[Middle English afflighten, from afflight,
 souls feel compelled to seek out each hour of the day. If pressed, we would admit much of the news isn't news, and much that is doesn't affect us, but we have been conditioned to fear being the last to know anything. Conversely, we relish the thought of breaking the breaking news to even one co-worker or e-mail correspondent.

But it is a contingent sanctuary, contingent upon Adj. 1. contingent upon - determined by conditions or circumstances that follow; "arms sales contingent on the approval of congress"
contingent on, dependant on, dependant upon, dependent on, dependent upon, depending on, contingent
 our daily finding reasons to postpone the important work of our lives. Cable and power outages This is a list of famous wide-scale power outages. 1965
  • The Northeast Blackout of 1965 on November 9, 1965.
  • The infamous New York City Blackout of July 13-14, 1977, resulted in looting and rioting.
 happen, but are infrequent and of short duration. We have little idea what we would do if faced with just ourselves and one another for any extended period.

Google Earth A 3D mapping program from Google that covers the entire globe from satellite images. Requiring a download for Windows, Mac and Linux desktops, a street address can be searched, and the views can be zoomed down to the individual building all the way up to a satellite's view of the globe.  can take you over many a mile of fuzzy wilderness, but like airport layovers, it's not the same as being somewhere. Social networking sites can connect you to friends and save gas in the bargain, but they are not reality. We have come to think of computers as sanctuaries from life; pleasure domes they can be, but they do not rival the dome of the sky.

Drive modern man and woman from their electronic Eden, strip them of cellphones, uninvent their telegraphs, blot Edison from history and give them paper and pen. What happens? It is akin to the unfolding of an English novel Early novels in English
See the article First novel in English. Romantic novel
The Romantic period saw the first flowering of the English novel. The Romantic and the Gothic novel are closely related; both imagined almost-supernatural forces operating in nature or
 in full Public Broadcasting Service

Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural,
. They wait for the mail. Calling cards are exchanged. Sunday afternoon tea is served. A game of chess begins. Conversation is raised to an art form.

But time accelerates. The coming generations rise on a titillating tit·il·late  
v. tit·il·lat·ed, tit·il·lat·ing, tit·il·lates
1. To stimulate by touching lightly; tickle.

2. To excite (another) pleasurably, superficially or erotically.
 tower of texting and a cacophony of clicking. That connections are made in the silicon interstices of the modern world is proven, but do we want to live by incessant reassurances that we are OK, or laughing out loud, or rolling on the floor with laughter, or will be right back to attend to an e-mail forward?

Perhaps, if they had had our technology, previous generations would have chosen the same sanctuaries we do. But they did not and could not.

Thus, I can still read the letters of grandparents grandparents nplabuelos mpl

grandparents grand nplgrands-parents mpl

grandparents grand npl
, great-grandparents, distant cousins and complete strangers. An uncle's thoughts from Europe during World War II. My grandfather's cryptic diary entries from France in 1918. A distant great-aunt who visited the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago in 1893. A Vermont surgeon posted in Maryland who heard guns along the Potomac in 1862. And there are postcards, a microcosm of U.S. history, and postal rate increases from McKinley to McCain. (Hey, I can dream.)

"Wish you were here." But time has reversed their polarity. It is they who are present with me now, crossing the Grand Canyon Grand Canyon, great gorge of the Colorado River, one of the natural wonders of the world; c.1 mi (1.6 km) deep, from 4 to 18 mi (6.4–29 km) wide, and 217 mi (349 km) long, NW Ariz. , emerging from Howe Caverns, delightfully touting a night's stay in a concrete teepee motel in Kentucky.

Even if the Servers in their endless storage wisdom are auto-saving our lives - e-mail jokes and shopping lists, intemperate in·tem·per·ate  
Not temperate or moderate; excessive, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages.

in·temper·ate·ly adv.
 screeds and those infelicitous choices of adjectives - our grandchildren are unlikely to hit the print button. If they do, it could be days before they find the wheat hidden among all that chaff chaff

1. chaffed hay; called also chop.

2. the winnowings from a threshing, consisting of awns, husks, glumes and other relatively indigestible materials.

Against all that, a few continue to write letters or keep diaries. Some of these scraps will hide themselves in a desk drawer, or slip from view behind a cupboard to wait out this impatient age. Most say nothing very deep, but have power to carry us back to a fall of rain at dusk, the summer we fixed the roof, or the uncertainty of an illness now long and happily past, but marking a moment when life seemed more precious for the threat of being lost.

For such moments, a few are willing to leave their media sanctuary, abandon all contingencies and, against the looming oblivion of time, scratch away, pen on paper, long and late into the night.

Contact Chris Sinacola by e-mail at
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 8, 2008
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