August 19th, 2002

Salt Precaution

wb Cryptess, and the shape of the sacred

WHOOOO! Hey! Hello yous! How're ya'll doin' this evenin'? Yeah, I'm all right, I'm all right. It feels great to be back at a computer! Yeah! WHOOOOOOOOOO!!

Ah, lemme tell ya. Well, it looks like Cryptess is back in action. Yeah, that's right, that very lovely and talented young lady has updated her journal. Yeah, that's right! So why don't we all just give it up for Cryptess!! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Incidentally, I was just watching some stand-up comedy on Comedy Central a few moments ago, so if it seems to have influenced my tone, I apologise.

But yeah, Cryptess is back so I can shut down many of my worry circuits. And she apologises for not replying to a bunch of people's supportive messages, but I think I'll just take my revenge nonetheless by not replying to her apology. Ha HAA! She’ll just have to read my happiness at her return over here.

Let's see . . . what happened to me to-day . . .

I bought a copy of Amélie on DVD, which I'm intensely happy about. I watched it with my grandmother and I wasn't even especially pissed off when she didn't get it. Well, okay, it bothered me a bit.

I'm so fucking sensitive when it comes to movies. Movies really are sacred to me, and there's still a part of me that just simply does not understand how most people can accept watching movies the way that most people watch movies. They think it has no bearing on the film if someone’s just outside mowing the lawn, or if there's a bit of glare on the TV screen, or if they compulsively have to be dealing with some unrelated affair that takes them completely out of the movie at it's beginning.

I know two people that do this, and it almost never fails. The moment opening credits start to roll, even if it's during a critical establishing shot, they gotta get up at precisely that moment to get food, or shuffle papers, or whatever convenient distraction they can find.

This is just one example of a breed of behaviours springing from a mindset that simply does not believe that the tinier things a filmmaker does has even the slightest effect on their movie-watching experience, let alone the profound effect on it that in fact takes place.

Whether a person's shoe makes a squeaky, syncopated noise instead of a warm, even 'clomp'. The precise moment that a character walks into a room, the angle, the slightly tinted hue of the light on her face. Whether the first thing we see in a scene is pure scenery, or the characters from a distance. Things that appeal to the simplest, most fundamental aspects of our perceptions, the aspects that can tell the difference between a square and a circle. Too many people have seemingly convinced themselves that there is no difference . . .

And oh. That reminds me of the widescreen issue. I wonder how long I'm going to be trapped in the hell that is explaining something that should be so intuitive and fucking simple, over, and over again to people, only to find they still have not understood.

I remember talking to a woman who had just bought a DVD player.

"It's kind of a rip-off," she complained, "All of the movies have black bars on the top and bottom, and I can't figure out how to make them go away,"

As usual, the first thing I had to do was repress the wave of irritation that immediately rose into my throat, so as not to alienate the person before I had the opportunity to enlighten her.

I began by informing her of something which some tiny part of her mind knew already--that when you go to see a movie in a movie theatre, the screen is shaped like a rectangle. In fact, the movie is filmed entirely in that rectangle shape.

Now, a television screen is shaped basically like a square. So what is done, exactly, to format these movies in order to fit "your" screen? Why, the answer is that a large portion of the image is hacked off. In the cases of especially wide movies, which include most musicals, as well as epic-type movies such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, roughly a third of the image is lost. And the film is put into a format known as Pan N Scan, or in the language of Pricks, "Full Screen". This means that some static shots that once featured two characters interacting or talking from direct opposite sides of the screen are changed either into two shots, cutting from one person to the other, depending on who's talking, or into a very artificial looking pan, executed as one character finishes talking, and the other begins.

Two good examples of the awkwardness of this technique come to mind;

1) In a movie called Lost Highway, there's a shot of Patricia Arquette leaning over the sink, facing the bathroom mirror. At one point she looks up into the mirror, and seems to see something. When I was only able to watch this movie in Pan N Scan, I had no idea what she was looking at. When I finally obtained a widescreen copy, I saw that she was looking at her husband, who was standing quietly in the doorway.

2) In Return of the Jedi, there's a scene just after Yoda dies where Luke has a long conversation with Obi-Wan Kenobi's ghost. In the Pan N Scan version, the scene alternates between a shot of Luke's face, and a very peculiar shot of almost the direct back of Alec Guinness’s head. When I got a widescreen version of the film, I finally realised that the camera was actually static for almost the entire conversation, that it featured both characters in the shot at once, and that when Obi-Wan was talking, we weren't meant to be looking at the back of his head, but rather at Luke's reactions.

(Pan N Scan also, btw, results in those strange shots when two characters are talking in the front seats of a car, and they both seem to be only halfway onto the screen, and the scene's focus almost seems supposed to be the empty area between the seats)

Now, imagine my supreme irritation when, after explaining all this to the woman, I overheard her making the same complaint to someone else, that there were black lines at the top and bottom she could not get ride of.

Why are people so stupid? I mean really. Why?

Maybe it's because as Yoda observed of Luke, they must unlearn what they have learned .
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Salt Precaution

French girls

Just watching a bit of Amélie again, this time on a big widescreen television. It really is such a beautiful movie.

I was holding a tumbler full of green tea as I watched. This is a Starbucks Halloween tumbler that my mum gave me for Halloween one year, and it has kind of a difficult sipper lid. This resulted in me scalding my lips on the very hot green tea as it poured much more quickly towards my mouth than I had anticipated. But on the plus side, it seemed to clear up a bit of my illness.

Watching Amélie, I was reminded of something very stupid that I did a few years ago.

I was taking a creative writing class, and in the class with me was a beautiful French girl named Alban. She wrote things that made whole stories out of simple images--that is, a scene with a man having an espresso at a café was so pregnant with meaning that she could weave an entire short story of such scenes and you felt as though you'd just glimpsed one of the underlying, foundation threads of our emotional reality.

Unfortunately, at that time I was somewhat asexual. I mean, I'm certain I exhibited signs of being attracted to and interested in her, but they were signs that I was not precisely aware of myself at the time. And what's more, I considered it just completely outside the realm of possibility that something could actually happen between myself and a girl of my age, and I just took it for granted that she had no interest in me. Or if she did, it would only be best for her to staunch such interest for it was bound to go only absolutely nowhere.

And looking back, what makes me feel especially foolish is I think she was indeed very interested in me--she always made it a point to sit as close to me as possible--she wrote a part for me in her play that called for my character to kiss hers passionately at the climax. And the most astonishing item of all is that she gave me her phone number.

And what is doubly astonishing is that she gave me her number because I asked for it. Just bold face, "Say, can I have your number?"

And my real astonishing idiocy here is that I actually, genuinely, did not grasp why it was I felt compelled to get her phone number. That is, there was some part of me that was saying, "Hey, maybe we could go out with this girl. On a date," but that part of me was not communicating with my conscious mind. Instead, the reason I thought I was trying to get her number was for un utterly ludicrous scheme I was hatching, and I had to be thoroughly delusional to think that I would ever actually end up implementing.

At that time, for whatever reason, my mum had been getting on my case for not having a girlfriend. She was at the point of bullying me like a Goddess of Fungal Rashes. So I thought to myself, "Well, Alban has to return to France soon. I could have her pose as my wife, and I'll say, 'Look Ma, I'm married to a French girl, so you can lay off now,'"

Oy vey! I'm incredibly stupid!

Alban was indeed returning to France, but only for Christmas. And she told me to call her in January. And I never did.

That fact is I lost her phone number--she wrote it on a teeny tiny piece of paper. Although, even if I hadn't lost it, I think I would have been too shy to ever try calling her anyway . . .

Ack! And she prolly thinks I'm a complete jerk for not calling her too . . .
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