Tag Archives: family memories

Holograms of the departed

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I watched an intriguing movie recently that I thought might be of interest to those of you who have lost loved ones. It’s called, “Marjorie Prime,” and is based upon a Pulitzer-nominated play.

The movie is set in the near-future, where there are lifelike holograms that can be programmed to act like the dearly departed, and have the ability to learn via artificial intelligence.  The movie’s central concept is: “What would we remember, if given the chance?”

Marjorie, 86, is dealing with memory loss and chooses to create her deceased husband’s hologram when he was in his prime, which her daughter, played by Geena Davis, finds creepy. Davis perfectly captures the reluctant caregiver role, and I could relate to the mix of emotions she expresses in the movie. Lois Smith as Marjorie was brilliant. For you “Mad Men” fans, Jon Hamm plays Marjorie’s husband in hologram form.

I found the film to be very moving and thought-provoking. While you could label it science-fiction, it’s much more rooted in the human condition than in mechanical processes. The holographic “primes” look like normal people, not some CGI monstrosity. It made me think, wow, if I had the option to create holograms of my parents, would I, and if so, how would I program them? Would I leave out my mother’s traits that annoyed me? If I did, would she be an accurate representation of my mother? I think it would be easier with Dad; I would love to hear him sing Bing Crosby tunes and serenade me on my birthday. Still, Dad’s life stories would be incomplete because I don’t remember all of the details.

The film made me think about creating pet holograms, but would that be as rewarding? So much of an experience with a pet is tactile in nature: petting, hugging, stroking their fur.

After we lose a loved one, many of us think about what would we do if we had one more moment with that person. Sometimes it’s expressing things left unsaid, other times it’s apologizing for regretful actions. “Marjorie Prime” is an intriguing study on what technology could offer to help bridge the worlds between the living, the dead, and our memories of them.

 

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A ripped up family photo

Now it’s easy to delete a bad family photo. If you don’t like what you see in preview mode, just hit a button and it vanishes forever. Back when I was a kid, you had to have the film developed. Then you had to go through the pack of good, bad and mediocre images, and choose which ones went into the family album. Or, if you had a Polaroid, you crossed your fingers as the image developed before your eyes.

There is one photo I clearly remember which did not earn a place in the family album. I was about four years old. Mom was trying out her new Polaroid and wanted to take family photos. Dad decided to hit the bar beforehand. He came home with cheeks as rosy as a clown’s and his breath reeked of beer. But he was happy and ready to grin for the camera.

Mom needless to say was not so happy. She tried to dissuade Dad but he wanted his picture taken … with me. I remember sitting on his lap, and smelling beer and smoke and Dad’s aftershave underneath the bar smell. I was happy, because Dad was happy, not understanding the source of his cheeriness. She agreed to take a photo, just to diffuse the situation. The moment was forgotten until years later, when I came across the photo, buried in a shoebox filled with family photos.

“Oh, I meant to throw that out,” Mom said and snatched it out of my hand. She ripped it up, trying to destroy the memory forever.

But her attempt failed, as I remember every detail of that moment. It’s not necessarily a bad memory, it’s just the ups and downs most families experience.

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