Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apparent Brightness

So as not to be accused of being all ass kissy about Kubrick, let me point out a longstanding peeve. The aperture of a camera must be wide open to capture faintly visible objects like background stars. But when a bright object like the moon, and particularly the sun, is in frame, the aperture is nearly closed and the chance of those very dim and distant background stars registering is nil.

SNAP! Are you listening, you idiot moon hoax 'I can't see stars in the Apollo footage' ass hats?

For as long as there's been celluloid, there has been an assumption of audience stupidity by film and television studios that wrongly perpetuates the convention that stars are always visible in space. But in space, light is not just relative, it's very relative. It's ironic that this Hollywood falsehood lead to such a monumental misunderstanding of real life.

'I know the real footage of the moon landings I saw was faked, because the faked footage of the moon landings I saw looked so real... obviously.'

Stupid begets stupid.

In 2001, Kubrick either didn't know he was doing anything wrong, or went along with it for the sake of his little movie.

It's a minor detail and not really worth mentioning. But I went ahead anyway and made these illustrations to show how 2001's opening shot should have looked... so here.

The background stars would be visible behind the eclipse of the moon until the instant the sun breaches the horizon. At that moment the stars would vanish, owing to the new camera setting which requires a smaller aperture so that details on the moon can be seen. Otherwise the moon would be washed out and the sun too bright. Think of exiting a darkened movie theater on a bright sunny afternoon. The eye constantly adjusts to differing degrees of light. So must a film camera. And as my old band instructor Ted Pucinski(sp) said, 'Volume is relative.'

Also, a crescent would advance along the top of the moon as it descends out of frame. Same goes for the Earth...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Life... in Pictures

I don't think I can ever adequately express the feeling I had the first time I saw '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

Tenth grade, 1982. My English Lit teacher, Mr. Kachargo(sp), showed us a horrid, non-letter boxed, pan&scan version of the film on a twenty-four inch, 4x3 TV, to kill the last few days before Christmas break. Despite the lousy format, I was floored.

I remember having seen a few photo stills of 2001 in my various scifi/special effects genre books, but was never engaged by them, flat as they were. Without music, and motion, they had no depth.

Kachargo couldn't stuff the whole film into a fifty minute class. But on first viewing he managed to get to the Great Transition before the lunch buzzer rang; that four million year giant leap where the flying bone turns into a space weapon. That was it... I was hooked. I couldn't wait to get to school the next day, a rarity for me.

I've seen it a zillion times since. But strangely, when thinking back on my first few viewings, I had the distinct impression of having seen the film in black and white. Maybe my brain misinterpreting its starkness, and desaturated my memory. When I watch it now I am often surprised by the amount of color it contains.

I don't ever remember feeling empathy for a Kubrick character. (Spartacus aside: which was more a contract job and vehicle for advancement) Kubrick doesn't do that. I am always very intensely interested in who they are and what they're doing. But I never subsume their emotions, ever. I felt as strong an emotion as I could feel at the end of 2001, but it wasn't the kind of emotion one could properly call... affection, or compassion, or sympathy. It was more akin to vertigo, the kind I get when I look at those amazing Hubble images; human insignificance in the face of enormity. It's a cold lonely feeling that I warmly relate to the emptiness of the void.

There's an imaginary narrative at the beginning of each chapter of the book 'Galaxies,' by Timothy Ferris. It describes a relativistic, near-light speed spaceship journey across the universe. The explorers outlive the Earth and Sun, not to mention their loved ones, by trillions for years as they plow through intergalactic space toward the edge of the ever expanding visible universe which by then will be so close that its featureless blackness will negate and mask the beauty of the universe for which they set off.

That feeling. I love that feeling.

After we finished the movie I went straight to the school library and found the book upon which it was based. I tore through it, and everything else I could find by Arthur C. Clarke. I didn't realize it at the time, but while Clarke certainly contributed, he wasn't actually the person responsible for the visual mind trip that was the movie. It was Stanley Kubrick who made this thing possible. I can't say how much I enjoy his films any better than the people who knew him, and won't try. I invite the reader to watch, 'A Life in Pictures,' which beautifully details his technique and works.

Symphony of Science

In the tradition of Sagan...

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Persistence of Memory

Nick Sagan remembers his father.

Sunday, October 11, 2009



Monday, October 5, 2009

To Catch a Phrase...

I don't get it...

Sagan could turn a phrase better than anyone; witness Cosmos. He had an economy of speech, no doubt honed by years of classroom lecture, that communicated, and endeared, and endures... and simply made you want more.

And yet there isn't a single memorable quote in the entirety of Contact... except for one.

'Seems like an awful waste of space.'

Someone, someone low, actually had to write this sentence down... on paper... and unfortunately for us, it did not spontaneously burst into flames.

Not only that... it smacks of being furiously written down on a post-it-note in a boardroom (bored room?) after some fucking disinterested suit with a brainstorm chimed in with an off the cuff remark before a committee of terrified underlings to the effect, 'We need a snappy catch-phrase in this flick. A zinger! Think deodorant commercial, people! Johnson, wake up!'

'Yessir,' Johnson yawped in agony!

'There's a catch-phrase here, damnit. Find it!'

And Johnson blurted, 'Blue-flake cocaine!'

Withering glower, followed by, 'You're fired! Johnson Two, wake up!'

Thirteen studio grunts, and almost five whole minutes later, someone shat out... you guessed it...

' awful waste of space.'

And then no one, and I mean no one, either read the damnable thing again, nor had guts enough to state the blatantly obvious.

'...awful ...waste ...of space.'

Isn't life just like a box of chocolates?

Nice Guy Carl