In this church in Staunton Harold, England, there’s an inscription:
When all things sacred were throughout ye nation Either demollisht or profaned
Sir Robert Shirley Barronet founded this Church whose singular praise it is to have done ye best things in ye worst times And hoped them in the most callamitous.
This is Sir Robert the 4th Baronet, who died a prisoner in the Tower of London.
shoutout to FWJ who told me that one.
Seen on the Paramount lot.
which I’m finding fantastic. I’m not THAT into The Searchers the movie (I mean I think it’s cool) but this book is amazing as Texas history. I’d put it on a shelf with God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright. They can split the Helytimes J. Frank Dobie Texas History Prize for 2018.
Billy Dixon was there:
By August a troop of cavalry made it to Adobe Walls, under Lt. Frank D. Baldwin, with Masterson and Dixon as scouts, where a dozen men were still holed up.:247 “Some mischievous fellow had stuck an Indian’s skull on each post of the corral gate.”:248 The killing had not ended, however; one civilian was lanced by Indians while looking for wild plums along the Canadian River.
This wasn’t that long ago.
Maybe some day I’ll get to that part of Texas. Long Texas drives have formed an important part of my life. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Movies have changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Several of these changes in popular English-language filmmaking practice are reflected in patterns of film style as distributed over the length of movies. In particular, arrangements of shot durations, motion, and luminance have altered and come to reflect aspects of the narrative form. Narrative form, on the other hand, appears to have been relatively unchanged over that time and is often characterized as having four more or less equal duration parts, sometimes called acts – setup, complication, development, and climax. The altered patterns in film style found here affect a movie’s pace: increasing shot durations and decreasing motion in the setup, darkening across the complication and development followed by brightening across the climax, decreasing shot durations and increasing motion during the first part of the climax followed by increasing shot durations and decreasing motion at the end of the climax. Decreasing shot durations mean more cuts; more cuts mean potentially more saccades that drive attention; more motion also captures attention; and brighter and darker images are associated with positive and negative emotions. Coupled with narrative form, all of these may serve to increase the engagement of the movie viewer.
Keywords: Attention, Emotion, Evolution, Film style, Movies, Narrative, Pace, Popular culture
Over at Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, James E. Cutting has an interesting paper about how popular movies have changed over time in terms of shot duration, motion, luminance, and cuts.
One thing that hasn’t really changed though: a three or four act structure.
In many cases, and particularly in movies, story form can be shown to have three or four parts, often called acts (Bordwell, 2006; Field, 2005; Thompson, 1999). The term act is borrowed from theater, but it does not imply a break in the action. Instead, it is a convenient unit whose size is between the whole film and the scene in which certain story functions occur. Because there is not much difference between the three- and four-act conceptions except that the latter has the former’s middle act broken in half (which many three-act theorists acknowledge; Field, 2005), I will focus on the four-act version.
The first act is the setup, and this is the portion of the story where listeners, readers, or viewers are introduced to the protagonist and other main characters, to their goals, and to the setting in which the story will take place. The second act is the complication, where the protagonists’ original plans and goals are derailed and need to be reworked, often with the help or hindrance of other characters. The third is the development, where the narrative typically broadens and may divide into different threads led by different characters. Finally, there is the climax, where the protagonist confronts obstacles to achieve the new goal, or the old goal by a different route. Two other small regions are optional bookend-like structures and are nested within the last and the first acts. At the end of the climax, there is often an epilogue, where the diegetic (movie world) order is restored and loose ends from subplots are resolved. In addition, I have suggested that at the beginning of the setup there is often a prologue devoted to a more superficial introduction of the setting and the protagonist but before her goals are introduced (Cutting, 2016).
Interesting way to think about film structure. Why are movies told like this?
Perhaps most convincing in this domain is the work by Labov and Waletzky (1967), who showed that spontaneous life stories elicited from inner-city individuals without formal education tend to have four parts: an orientation section (where the setting and the protagonist are introduced), a complication section (where an inciting incident launches the beginning of the action), an evaluation section (which is generally focused on a result), and a resolution (where an outcome resolves the complication). The resolution is sometimes followed by a coda, much like the epilogue in Thompson’s analysis. In sum, although I wouldn’t claim that four-part narratives are universal to all story genres, they are certainly widespread and long-standing
Cutting goes on:
That form entails at least three, but usually four, acts of roughly equal length. Why equal length? The reason is unclear, but Bordwell (2008, p. 104) suggested this might be a carryover from the development of feature films with four reels. Early projectionists had to rewind each reel before showing the next. Perhaps filmmakers quickly learned that, to keep audiences engaged, they had to organize plot structure so that last-seen events on one reel were sufficiently engrossing to sustain interest until the next reel began.
I love reading stuff like this, in the hopes of improving my craft at storytelling, but as Cutting notes:
Filmmaking is a craft. As a craft, its required skills are not easily penetrated in a conscious manner.
In the end you gotta learn by feel. We can feel when a story is right, or when it’s not right. I reckon you can learn more about movie story, and storytelling in general, by telling your story to somebody aloud and noticing when you “lose” them than you can by reading all of Brodwell. Anyone who’s pitched anything can probably remember moments when you knew you had them, or spontaneously edited because you could feel you were losing them.
Still, it’s fun to break apart human cognition and I look forward to more articles from Cognitive Science and am grateful they are free!
Another paper cited in this article is “You’re a good structure, Charlie Brown: the distribution of narrative categories in comic strips” by N Cohn.
Thanks to Larry G. for putting me on to this one.
You’re not gonna get what you were promised.
An angry making idea. Maybe one of the most angry-making ideas possible.
I’ve been wondering if anger about the feeling of a broken promise is a major driver in US politics. We were promised something, and we’re not gonna get it.
But what, exactly?
The United States is the absolute best as promising. All of our greatest politicians were great promisers. Our founding fathers were great promisers.
John Lanchester, writing in LRB:
Napoleon said something interesting: that to understand a person, you must understand what the world looked like when he was twenty. I think there’s a lot in that.
I notice, talking to younger people, people who hit that Napoleonic moment of turning twenty since the crisis, that the idea of capitalism being thought of as morally superior elicits something between an eye roll and a hollow laugh. Their view of capitalism has been formed by austerity, increasing inequality, the impunity and imperviousness of finance and big technology companies, and the widespread spectacle of increasing corporate profits and a rocketing stock market combined with declining real pay and a huge growth in the new phenomenon of in-work poverty. That last is very important. For decades, the basic promise was that if you didn’t work the state would support you, but you would be poor. If you worked, you wouldn’t be. That’s no longer true: most people on benefits are in work too, it’s just that the work doesn’t pay enough to live on. That’s a fundamental breach of what used to be the social contract. So is the fact that the living standards of young people are likely not to be as high as they are for their parents. That idea stings just as much for parents as it does for their children.
But it’s not just politics. If you live in the USA and you turn on your TV, you are being tempted, teased, and promised.
The illusionary promise.
There’s a connection here, I believe, to the world glamour. What is glamour?
The Scottish term may either be from Ancient Greek γραμμάριον (grammárion, “gram”), the weight unit of ingredients used to make magic potions, or an alteration of the English word grammar (“any sort of scholarship, especially occult learning”).
A magic spell. An illusion.
Here is Larry McMurtry talking about glamour, and its lack:
Kids in the midwest only get to see even modest levels of glamour if they happen to be on school trips to one or another of the midwestern cities: K.C., Omaha, St. Louis, the Twin Cities. In some, clearly, this lack of glamour festers. Charles Starkweather, in speaking about his motive for killing all those people, had this to say: “I never ate in a high-class restaurant, I never seen the New York Yankees play, I never been to Los Angeles…”
He was teased with something he could never have. Here is Andrew Sullivan on Sarah Palin:
One of the more amazing episodes in Sarah Palin’s early political life, in fact, bears this out. She popped up in the Anchorage Daily News as “a commercial fisherman from Wasilla” on April 3, 1996. Palin had told her husband she was going to Costco but had sneaked into J.C. Penney in Anchorage to see … one Ivana Trump, who, in the wake of her divorce, was touting her branded perfume. “We want to see Ivana,” Palin told the paper, “because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.”
Interested in readers’ takes on glamour and glimmers.
A photograph Petrie took of his view from the tomb he lived in in Giza 1881
Finding myself with an unexpectedly free afternoon, I went to see The Favourite at the Arclight,
You rarely see elderly people in central Hollywood, but they’re there at the movies at 2pm. While we waited for the movie to start, there was an audible electrical hum. The Arclight person introduced the film, and then one of the audience members shouted out “what’re you gonna do about the grounding hum?”
The use of the phrase “grounding hum” rather than just “that humming sound” seemed to baffle the Arclight worker. Panicked, she said she’d look into it, and if we wanted, we could be “set up with another movie.”
After like one minute I took the option to be set up with another movie because the hum was really annoying. Playing soon was Mary Queen of Scots.
Reminded as I thought about it of John Ford’s quote about Monument Valley. John Ford assembles the crew and says, we’re out here to shoot the most interesting thing in the world: the human face.
Both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie have incredible faces. It’s glorious to see them. The best parts of this movie were closeups.
Next I saw Schindler’s List.
This movie has been re-released, with an intro from Spielberg, about the dangers of racism.
This movie knocked my socks off. I forgot, since the last time I saw it, what this movie accomplished.
When the movie first came out, the context in which people were prepared for it, discussed it, saw it, were shown it in school etc took it beyond the realm of like “a movie” and into some other world of experience and meaning.
I feel like I saw this movie for the first time on VHS tapes from the public library, although I believe we were shown the shower scene at school.
My idea in seeing it this time was to see it as a movie.
How did they make it? How does it work? What’s accomplished on the level of craft? Once we’ve handled the fact that we’re seeing a representation of the Holocaust, how does this work as a movie?
It’s incredible. The craft level accomplishment is on the absolute highest level.
Take away the weight with which this movie first reached us, with what it was attempting. Just approach it as “a filmmaker made this, put this together.”
Long, enormous shots of huge numbers of people, presented in ways that feel real, alive. Liam Neeson’s performance, his mysteries, his charisma, his ambiguity. We don’t actually learn that much about Oscar Schindler. So much is hidden.
Ralph Fiennes performance, the humanity, the realness he brings to someone whose crimes just overload the brain’s ability to process.
The moving parts, the train shots, the wide city shots. Unreal accomplishment of filmmaking.
- water, recurring as an image, theme in the movie.
- there are a bunch of scenes of just factory action, people making things with tools and machines. that was the cover. was not the Holocaust an event of the factory age, a twisted branch of Industrial Revolution and efficiency metric spirit?
- reminded that people didn’t know, when it began, “we’re in The Holocaust, this is the Holocaust.” It built. It got worse and worse. there were steps and stages along the way.
- what happened in the the Holocaust happened in a particular time and place in history, focused in an area of central and eastern Europe that had its own, centuries long, context for what you were, who belonged where, history, which tribes go where, what race or nationality meant, how these were understood. Göth’s speech about how the centuries of Jewish history in Kraków will become a rumor. I felt like this movie kind of captured and helped explain some of that, without a ton of extra labor.
- In a way Schindler could almost be seen as like a comic character. He didn’t start his company to save Jews. He starts it to make money from cheap labor. He’s a schemer who sees an opportunity. A rascal out to make a quick buck, a con man and shady dealer who ended up in the worst crime in history, an honest crook who finds he’s in something of vastness and evil beyond his ability to even comprehend.
- There is a scene in this movie that could almost be called funny, or at least comic, when Oscar Schindler (Neeson) tries to explain to Stern (Ben Kingsley) the good qualities of the concentration camp commandant Göth that nobody ever seems to mention!
- Kenneally’s story of how he heard about Schindler:
- The theme of sexuality, Goth’s sexuality, Schindler’s, what it means to love and express your nature versus trying to suppress and kill. Spielberg is not really known for having tough explorations of sexuality in his films but I’d say he took this one pretty square on with a lot bravery?
- if I had a criticism it was maybe that the text on the little intermediary passages that appear on screen a few times and explain the context felt not that clear and kind of unnecessary.
- I feared this movie would have a kind of ’90s whitewash, I felt maybe takes exist, the “actually Schindler’s List is BAD” take is out there, with the idea being that Spielberg put in too much sugar with the medicine which when we talk about the Shoah, unspeakable, unaddressable, is somehow wrong, but damn. I was glad for the sugar myself and I don’t think Spielberg looked away. The Holocaust occurred in a human context, and human contexts, no matter how dark, always have absurdity.
- the scene, for instance, were the Nazis burn in an enormous pyre the months-buried, now exhumed bodies of thousands of people executed during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, Spielberg took us as close to the mouth of the abyss as you’re gonna see at a regular movie theater.
What does it mean that Spielberg made a movie about the Holocaust and the two leads are both handsome Nazis?
*As a boy I was attracted to the history of Britain and Ireland as well as Celtic and Anglo-Saxon peoples in America. The peoples of those islands recorded a dramatic history that I felt connected to. They also developed a compelling tradition of telling these history stories with as much drama and excitement as possible eg. Shakespeare.
At a library book sale, I bought, for 50 cents a volume, three biographies from a numbered set from like 1920 of “notable personages,” something like that.
These just looked like the kind of books that a cool gentleman had. Books that indicated status and intelligence.
One of this set that I got was Hernando Cortes. I started that one, but even at that tender age I perceived Cortes was not someone to get behind. The biography had a pro-Cortes slant I found distasteful.
Another volume was about Mary Queen of Scots.
Just on her name, really, I started reading that one.
Mary Queen of Scots’ life was a thrilling story, and this one was melodramatically told. Affairs, murder plots, insults, rumor, execution.
Sometime thereafter, at school, we were all assigned like a book report. To read a biography, any biography, and write a report about it.
Since I’d already read Mary’s biography, I picked her.
As it happened, I overheard my dad confusedly ask my mom why, of all people on Earth, I’d chosen Mary Queen of Scots as the topic for my biography project. My dad did not know the backstory, which my mom patiently explained.
My dad’s reaction on hearing I’d picked Mary Queen of Scots, while not as harsh as Kevin Hart’s imagined reaction on hearing his son had a dollhouse, helps me to understand where Kevin Hart was coming from. Confusion, for starters. Upsetness.
At the time the guys I thought were really heroes were probably like JFK and Hemingway.
Thought of this photo today.
(what’s David Gergen doing there? sometimes I’ve been that guy).
All posts related to any Bush.
it’s possible attempts were made to record this song onto an audio cassette.
I was thinking about how a lot of movies and shows (a rewatch of The Sopranos is what made me thing of this) could be called Sympathy For The Devil.
Isn’t the premise of this show to take a murderer and crime boss and get you to sympathize with him?
Sure, we’ve all heard of Chaco Canyon. It’s one of the 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the USA. But I tended to lump it in with Mesa Verde and the other cliff dwellings and move on.
Then an ad in High West (“for people who care about the West”) caught my eye. $25 for a year’s subscription to Archaeology Southwest, PLUS the Chaco archaeology report? Yes!
Once you get going on Chaco Canyon, it’s hard to stop.
What was it? Who built it? How? What happened? What were they up to? Why there?
One of the most important conclusions that leaps out of this book is that most of the societies examined had attitudes toward nature that were fairly compatible with a responsible, sustainable relationship with the environment, but that nearly all of them ended up destroying their environment anyway, either because they lacked the scientific and technological knowledge to know how to act best or because they let their values change as they became wealthier and more powerful through exploitation of natural resources.
from this post.
Sometimes you start looking for something, more information, help, and you find exactly what you’re looking for. You find a guide who can give you exactly the information you’re looking for, in a digestible way.
That’s what I found when I found The Gambler’s House. A dense, rich blog about Chaco by a former Park Service seasonal guide, he / she seems to know this stuff at a deep level. Here are two of the closest I find to autobiography.
The author, who signs the name Teofilio, writes with clarity, patience, intelligence, respect for the reader, restrained but confident style, and a steady, calm voice, walking us through questions, debates, and controversies within the scholarship:
So if great houses weren’t pueblos, what were they? Here’s where contemporary archaeologists tend to break into two main camps. One sees them as elite residences, part of some sort of hierarchical system centered on the canyon or, alternatively, of a decentralized system of “peer-polities” with local elites who emulated the central canyon elites in the biggest great houses. In either case, note that the great houses are still presumed to have been primarily residential. The difference from the traditional view is quantitative, rather than qualitative. These researchers see the lack of evidence for residential use in most rooms, but they also see that there is still some evidence for residential use, and they emphasize that and interpret the other rooms as evidence of the power and wealth of the few people who lived in these huge buildings and were able to amass large food surpluses or trade goods (or whatever). The specific models vary, but the core thing about them is that they see the great houses as houses, not for the community as a whole (most people lived in the surrounding “small houses” both inside and outside of the canyon) but for a lucky few.
On the other side are those who see the difference between pueblos and great houses as qualitative. To these people, the great houses were not primarily residential in function, although they may have housed some people from time to time. Most of these researchers see the primary function of the sites as being “ritual” in some sense, although what that means is not always clearly specified. In many cases a focus on pilgrimage (based on questionable evidence) is posited. This group tends to make a big deal out of the astronomical alignments and large-scale planning evident in the layouts and positions of the great houses within their communities. They tend to see the few residents of the sites as caretakers, priests, or other individuals whose functions allowed them to reside in these buildings. Importantly, they don’t see these sites as equivalent to other residences in any meaningful way. They are instead public architecture, perhaps built by egalitarian communities as an act of religious devotion. Examples of monumental architecture built by such societies are known throughout the world (Stonehenge is a famous example), and this view fits with the traditional interpretation of modern Pueblo ethnography, which sees the Pueblos as peaceful, egalitarian, communal villagers. There is a long tradition of projecting this image back into the prehistoric past based on the obvious continuities in material culture, so while these scholars are in some ways breaking with tradition in not seeing great houses as residential, they are also staying true to tradition in other ways by interpreting them as a past manifestation of cultural tendencies still known in the descendant societies but expressed in different ways.
(from this post).
While many archaeologists have made valiant attempts to fit the rise of Chaco into models based on local and/or regional environmental conditions, they have been generally unsuccessful in finding a model that convincingly explains the astonishing florescence of the Chaco system in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. This has inspired some other archaeologists more recently to try a different tack involving less environmental determinism and more historical contingency. This seems promising, but finding sufficient evidence for this sort of approach is difficult when it comes to prehistoric societies like Chaco. The various camps of archaeologists will likely continue to argue about the nature of Chaco for a long time, I think. Meanwhile, the mystery remains.
I doubt this mystery will ever be totally solved. There’s just too much information that is no longer available for various reasons. That’s not necessarily a problem, though. At this point the mysteries of Chaco are among its most noteworthy characteristics. Sometimes not knowing everything, and accepting that lack of knowledge, is useful in coming to terms with something as impressive, even overwhelming, as Chaco. One way to deal with it all is to stop trying to figure out every detail and to just observe. The experience that results from this approach may have nothing to do with the original intent of the builders of the great houses of Chaco, but then again it may have everything to do with that intent. There’s no way to be sure, and there likely never will be. But that’s okay. Sometimes mysteries are better left unsolved.
What of the Gambler legend for the origin of Chaco? Alexandria Witze at Archaeology Conservancy tells us:
Navajo oral histories tell of a Great Gambler who had a profound effect on Chaco Canyon, the Ancestral Puebloan capital located in what is now northwestern New Mexico. His name was Nááhwiilbiihi (“winner of people”) or Noqóilpi (“he who wins men at play”), and he travelled to Chaco from the south. Once there, he began gambling with the locals, engaging in games such as dice and footraces. He always won.
Faced with such a formidable opponent, the people of Chaco lost all their possessions at first. Then they gambled their spouses and children and, finally, themselves, into his debt. With a group of slaves now available to do his bidding, the Gambler ordered them to construct a series of great houses—the monumental architecture that fills Chaco Canyon today.
What was up with Chaco Canyon’s roads? They were thirty feet wide, perfectly straight, and seem to go… nowhere?
Once you’re into Chaco Canyon before you know it you’re into Hovenweep.
and where does Mesa Verde fit into this?
So what was the relationship between the two? The short answer is that no one knows.
This is a great post with a possible Chaco theory:
Briefly, what I’m proposing is that the rise of Chaco as a regional center could have been due to it being the first place in the Southwest to develop detailed, precise knowledge of the movements of heavenly bodies (especially the sun and moon), which allowed Chacoan religious leaders to develop an elaborate ceremonial calendar with rituals that proved attractive enough to other groups in the region to give the canyon immense religious prestige. This would have drawn many people from the surrounding area to Chaco, either on short-term pilgrimages or permanently, which in turn would have given Chacoan political elites (who may or may not have been the same people as the religious leaders) the economic base to project political and/or military power throughout a large area, and cultural influence even further.
The “sexiest” post title:
stole that straight from Artnet.
The tale of who owns Vivian Maier’s work is interesting. Through some twists, John Maloof, the Chicago real estate developer (?) who found and bought most of the physical photos at a storage auction, does not at present own the copyright:
Until those heirs are determined, the Cook County Administrator will continue to serve as the supervisor of the Maier Estate.
It’s like we understand that we’re not in here to eat mozzarella and go to Tuscany. We’re not in here to accumulate money. We’re in here mostly to sacrifice, to do something. The way you do it is by taking risks.
It’s taking risks for the sake of becoming more human. Like Christ. He took risks and he suffered. Of course, it was a bad outcome, but you don’t have to go that far. That was the idea.
TALEB: Before 15, and I reread it many times. I’d say, before 15, I read Dostoyevsky and I read The Idiot. There’s a scene that maybe I was 14 when I read it. Prince Myshkin was giving this story. Actually, it was autobiographical for Dostoyevsky.
He said he was going to be put to death. As they woke him up and were taking him to the execution place, he decided to live the last few minutes of his life with intensity. He devoured life, it was so pleasurable, and promised himself, if he survives, to enjoy every minute of life the same way.
And he survived. In fact, it was a simulacrum of an execution, and Dostoyevsky . . . effectively that says the guy survived. The lesson was he no longer did that. It was about the preferences of the moment. He couldn’t carry on later. He forgot about the episode. That marked me from Dostoyevsky when I was a kid, and then became obsessed with Dostoyevsky.
I discovered that I wanted to be a writer as a kid. I realized to have an edge as a writer, you can’t really know what people know. You’ve got to know a lot of stuff that they don’t know.
Also re: Jesus, how about Norm Macdonald on the topic:
They’re making progress on the dome/orb that will one day hold the Academy Museum (motto: Go Inside The Movies).
At neighboring LACMA the American Outliers exhibit is terrific.
The Great Good Man by Marsden Hartley of Lewiston, Maine.
Struck by Horace Pippin’s John Brown Going To His Hanging:
Pippin served in K Company, 3rd Battalion of the 369th infantry, the famous Harlem Hellfighters, in Europe during World War I, where he lost the use of his right arm after being shot by a sniper. He said of his combat experience:
I did not care what or where I went. I asked God to help me, and he did so. And that is the way I came through that terrible and Hellish place. For the whole entire battlefield was hell, so it was no place for any human being to be.
While in the trenches, Pippin kept an illustrated journal which gave an account of his military service.
How about this one, Miss Van Alen:
attributed to “The Ganesvoort Limner (possibly Pieter Vanderlyn).”
Generally untrained and itinerant, limners were a class of artists who helped shape the image of colonial Americans, securing the social status of their middle-class sitters in portraits that convey an air of refinement.
says The National Gallery.
Proposed motto for LACMA: Go Inside The Art.