Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Penalties of being an art-film fan

A recent sequence of great visual and aural experiences, all involving sub-titles. The Life of Others (film, BBC4 - East Germany during the Stasi days), The White Ribbon (film, Hereford’s Borderline Film Festival – Germany prior to WW1, another masterpiece by Michael Haneke, director of Hidden and The Piano Teacher), St Matthew Passion (triumphant all-star version in Birmingham conducted by His Majesty Rattle), Departures (film, Borderline – Japan, put together like a FabergĂ© egg, moving, profound, funny).

Sub-titles can be burden on TV. When, say, the story is told against snowy landscapes the technicians contrive a black background to the letters to make things easier. But with Wild Strawberries the alternating scenes of sunlight and shadows (Another Bergman film?) make this impossible and words are lost. Solution: watch the film several times (it’s worth it) until the dialogue is memorised.

If you know the original language sub-titles are fun. With French I am astonished at the compression achieved in the translation. With German the fun comes from first reading the English and waiting for the spoken past participle at the end of the sentence. The Bach sub-titles are put up by someone who can read a score to correspond with what is being sung and to avoid repetitions.

THE NOVEL – TECHNO BIT With over 70,000 words written I am, of course, backing up. I use a Zip disc which looks like a larger, thicker floppy but stores 100 MB. One thing I can’t understand. If I’m halfway through a chapter the newer, longer file over-writes the shorter, previously recorded file and a pop-up identifying the two files asks me if this is OK. But sometimes the new file is smaller than the earlier file. How can that be?


christopher said...

I must say, this last little bit on science over at Lucy's had me howling, a bit barking mad as Lucy said. I love you guys. There is a gap between the English and American mind that allows English humor to ascend into the stratosphere, at least for me.

As for your Techno question, I have only this answer. I suggest that quite often there are data spaces created in word processing programs that can be collapsed when handled a little differently. In our memory rich environment this is no longer much of an issue. Data compression was essential back in DOS computer days, and that is what compression did, "pack" the data and collapse the spaces. It is still an issue in certain areas, for example if you wanted to email your 70,000 word novel, then you would want to use one of the compression programs still around, perhaps. That would reduce the wait.

Zip disks use a data handling program if I remember right rather than a direct a=a data transfer. Perhaps thats what changes the size of the backup. Compression of some kind is involved. That is quite old technology in computer evolutionary time. No one I know still uses them, though I mourned a little their passing. The graphic files of AutoCAD are basically too big though.

Barrett Bonden said...

Christopher: Welcome to Works Well. There's always room here for a combined poet and savant of the lesser-known and invisible details of computerdom. As to barking, let's do it in unison. If that works then one of us can do the descant. I reciprocate your feelings about American humour. It wasn't until I moved to Pennsylvania that I realised that Jewishness was such a powerful element in US humour. Nowdays, shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm make a positive virtue out of it.

I have a Zip drive because four or five years ago I did a community magazine and that was the medium by which I delivered it to the printer (the commercial entity not the thing plugged into the computer). It wasn't my favourite gizmo. The guys in the IT department at the printer often couldn't be bothered to return the discs and since they cost £10 each I became disenchanted. Hence, I turned the quarterly magazine into a community website which reduced my dependence on the outside techno-world. Since then the Zip has gathered dust and it seemed a convenient, if outmoded, way of doing back-up.

The second I started reading your explanation explanation I realised that was probably the case. Interestingly I have experienced a similar parallel issue. I like to draft my posts in Word then copy/paste them to Blogger. Which was fine until my grandson urged me to install Firefox whereupon the transferred data started arriving with all sorts of extra code and various editing irritations. So much so that Firefox is now uninstalled.

I can live with the Zip oddity and my preferred repairman/updater assures me he has a Zip drive just in case mine goes phut.

christopher said...

I really liked zip drives but wouldn't like losing the disks as you say. I think the zip drive is a really stable platform and it fits fine for word processing. I think it is fully fast enough and all that. Sometimes the technology outstrips our personal needs. I could have stopped at zip drives but now it is thumb drives and usb technology is so much faster. I don't trust thumb drives for longer term storage though.

I am no techno-savant, however. I know very little. I have power driven remote drives for stability in storage. They are so cheap now that it is silly to not invest in some gigs.

Thank you for your welcome, any friend of Lucy's a friend of mine...how's that for American sentiment?

Good luck on that novel. I can't write dialog to save my life for some reason.

Barrett Bonden said...

Christopher: This is my fifth novel. Only one came anywhere near publication (ie, it was taken up by an agent) and only very recently have I approached dialogue from any other direction than suck it and see. This time, just for fun, I googled "Fiction dialogue" and came up with an excellent checklist of broad-brush policies. Even so it boils down to something that has been at my elbow throughout my professional life as a journalist: cut, cut, cut. Except that I'm now required to be more sophisticated, with whole sentences collapsing into a single verb. This is frequently hard to spot during revision.

But I was struck by your point. In nine cases out of ten when a passage isn't right it's because the dialogue's lousy.

christopher said...

Dialogue is why I fell in love with the work of Gregory McDonald, who writes in the mystery genre, or did in his time. He got awards and recognition from his peers. He was president of the Mystery Writers' Guild or some such at one point. Some of his work turned into films. Fletch (I.M. Fletcher (Irwin Maurice)) was his character for several novels, a reporter. I lusted after his clear ability to create believable dialogue on the fly. At least to me it has to be done on the fly. You can't craft that, I don't believe, just clean up the edges. He would tell his stories in dialogue, maybe 40%. The dialogue is almost all one liners.

In other words, he really writes as so many speak. He uses sensible phrases rather than complex sentences and controls context so clearly that the ambiguity inherent is almost never a problem. Damn. I want that skill and I doubt I will ever get it.

I ain't a bad drop of the hat poet though. That skill is almost the complete reverse, letting the ambiguity stand and amplify with all the meanings being sensible. I understand well crafted Chinese is like that, whole poems in single sentences because the connotations of their tonal language are so much more evocative.

Barrett Bonden said...

I like Elmore Leonard for the same reason: an ability to propel plot though dialogue, plus the use of dialogue simply to entertain.

I began writing verse ("second division poetry") last year, sticking to Shakespearean sonnets and ABAB iambic quatrains. As a beginner I need the rigidity; vers libre leaves me adrift. I take your point about creative ambiguity but more recently I've been trying, without much success, to get away from densely packed lines into a more conversational style. There's more vulnerability about it and I'm denied some of the tricks with which I disguise my lack of ideas or my inability to articulate them. I've written about forty pieces, of which about three show some progress. Writing a novel, though, is far more demanding; verse allows a microscopic approach, novel fiction is like trying to control the world from a balloon at 10,000 feet.

I seem to recall from your profile you're a mech eng - so is one of my two central characters. It's a field which is rarely treated in fiction and yet in its beleagured way it's got lots of possibilities. If I still lived in the US I'd have set it in Detroit.