The other night, I was playing Medal of Honor Spearhead online and chatting with some people using Teamspeak, a voice over IP application, when one of the regular players signed on with some news.

“I’ve done a bad thing,” he said. His voice was ragged and on the verge of tears.

“What’s that?” some of us ventured.

“I took a drink last night,” he replied. “I got drunk ...”


”Well, I’m an alcoholic. That was my first drink in two and a half years. Christ, I fucked up, didn’t I?”

This revelation was startling and at first made me a bit uncomfortable. Here I was unwinding after a grueling day at work (okay, maybe not that grueling, but you get the picture), when a guy I only know via a computer game decided to tell thirty virtual strangers that he fell off the wagon. It seemed like crossing a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed -- too much personal information for the context of the situation.

And then something startling happened -- one of the guys started counseling him. I suppose it wasn’t that surprising -- he’d revealed a few weeks ago that he’d spent a couple of years working as a telephone psychic, and that most of his calls dealt with people who were at their wits end desperately wanting to talk to someone -- anyone -- and hoping for some sort of affirmation that they were okay. It was a tough job, he said, but there are people out there with nowhere else to turn. “So you give them a reading and some common sense advice and hope they’re okay.”. I used to laugh at the telephone psychic hotlines, but I guess they do offer a counseling service to people who desperately need it.

“Look,” the former phone psychic said, “you made a mistake. It happens. Just don’t drink again.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“No, it is that easy. It was an accident -- you feel bad about it. Just don’t let it happen again.”

And that started a thirty minute session where the guy -- who was border line hysterical -- was talked down. This probably sounds insane, but I was really touched by the compassion I heard -- the guy doing the counseling seemed to genuinely care, and I was glad he was there to talk to him. It made me realize that over time, I had started -- whether I wanted to or not -- developing relationships with these people, these disembodied voices coming out of my computer speakers. That we were friends of a sort, and that I’d come to like and even care about these people. I certainly had a lot of admiration for the former phone psychic.

What’s so great about things like TeamSpeak, bulletin boards, chat rooms or E2, is that they’re ways of allowing people to connect with one another -- people who are often lonely and isolated. I know I’ve written about my apprehension regarding online relationships before, but clearly people feel they’re valid enough to reveal the intimate details of their lives. There are so many lonely people out there working miserable jobs without many friends who desperately want to have real relationships, but just don’t know how.

So I guess my point of view regarding online relationships is changing. I’m not sure that I would ever cross the lines other people seem willing to cross -- but then even with my real life relationships I tend to keep my own council. That’s just the way I am. But I think I’m done with arguing against other people who choose to develop such strong relationships with people they might never meet. If it makes them happy and feel less alone in their lives, then maybe it’s a good thing.

Pantaliamon and I have been watching the first season of Felicity on DVD. This was a show I really overlooked during its original run, and it wasn’t until its inventive series finale where Felicity actually travels back in time to change some of her mistakes (and makes more mistakes in the process) that I realized just how smart it was. Seeing the first season only affirms this for me how well played it was. Whether or not you’re interested in the subject matter of kids in college, it’s worth taking a look at just for the sake of how well its written, acted and -- most of all -- directed. There’s so much visual subtext going on, you’d think you were watching a film. And all the things about the character of Felicity that annoyed me the first time I realize now are because she was written to be flawed, to make mistakes. Sure it’s a show that makes you cringe, but that’s a good thing.

We also just finished up watching the DVDs of the first season of 24, which was even better plotted than I remember. Seeing the whole thing at once makes me realize just how the plot twists at the end weren’t arbitrary -- there’s actually foreshadowing for them much earlier in the show. The current season is the best thing going on television right now, and after most of my favorite shows conclude that the end of this year, it’ll be one of the last shows I’ll be watching.