Archive for persistence of vision

Rag Pickers

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami let rag pickers work the Transfer Station’s bins. He wasn’t really allowed to, as it reduced the waste’s recycling value. However it could be termed a grey area, as people were allowed to “retract and repurpose extant waste”. He had skim-read regulations and found that phrase. He could quote it if questioned.

He called out, “Jamz, how’s it going over there?”

A thin boy in a red hoody, crouching in a bin, straightened up and waved. He cupped his hands to his mouth and said, “A good day so far, Mr Sami. Let’s hope it gets even better!”

Sami loved these kids. He saw them most days after school, analysing the day’s new arrivals, before the waste was shipped out the next morning. At weekends they were usually away, helping their families with odd jobs around town.

They were poor kids from the trailer park. The rich-poor division in Lucerne was extreme. It was often referred to as the professional-unprofessional problem, but in truth it was more about privileged and unprivileged members of society, if such a thing existed.

A famous British Prime Minister had said, “There is no such thing as society”. Sami’s teacher, Guru Baba, had wanted to meet this lady to ask her what she meant by that, but she had recently died. He referred to her as an “anti-role model”.

When Sami worked on film crews, he had learnt about the effect called persistence of vision, where an image remains on the retina for a short period after its source is removed. This effect is used to create the illusion of continuous motion between frames in movies.

There was a similar effect in societies called persistence of privilege. Studies showed that children of wealthy people were physically and mentally healthier, wealthier, and ultimately happier in life. You can’t blame the parents, as their biological imperative is to promote their genes, and you can’t blame the kids for having good role models, and for enjoying their lives. Who can you blame then for children picking rags daily after school?

Jamz was the rag pickers’ unofficial spokesman. He came over later and said, “We’re all done for today. There’s nothing much out there, but slim pickings are better than thin air. Thanks again.”

There was an informal agreement that rag pickers would not take the right materials from bins, only misplaced materials. They took plastic from metal bins, metal from wood bins, wood from fibre bins, and fibre from paper bins. This cleaned the waste stream, making it easier to sort later; less labour was needed to dismantle complex consumer products, such as cell phones, and there were fewer breakdowns at the processing centre. So the value of materials lost was recouped in efficiency. Sami felt it was a case of win-win, or maybe bin-bin.

Sami began training Jamz on the 3D Unit. He taught him to prototype products, print components, and create unusual gifts. At Christmas, he called the rag pickers together and said that he and Jamz would make them each a model of anything they wanted.

At first they were shy, but then began to speak up.

“A dad.”

“A mum.”

“A house.”

“A car.”

“Money.” This wasn’t allowed at the 3D Unit, and would set The Authority’s alarm bells ringing.

“A better future.”

Screen Angle

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2012 by javedbabar

“Keep moving please!” said the traffic cop. “No stopping here. There’s no entry.”

Sami was annoyed. He thought that by coming on a bicycle he would get a break, but the cops were treating car drivers, motorbikers, cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians the same. He wondered how wheelchair users would fare.

“But I am part of the production crew. I am the local project manager for the screening.”

This had no effect. The cop waved him on and said, “Well you should know better then. Nobody is allowed through this way except VIPs. Do you have VIP credentials?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, go around the back like everybody else. Once you pass through security, you’re in.”

It was strange to see the heart of Lucerne cordoned off. It was an important event, he knew, and they had to take precautions, but it didn’t seem right somehow.

The global launch of the film HUMANITY could have taken place in London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Paris or New York, but the director had had his vision for the film while climbing mountains here. The white bulk of Mt Alba at one end of the valley, and dark bulk of Mt Negra at the other, had caused him to “transcend the monochromicity of the world, while retaining its bipolar archetypes.”

What this meant, nobody really knew, but he was a world famous auteur at the peak of his creative powers, so it didn’t matter. He declared this film the “cumulative cultural container” of his lifetime’s work, and said that it must be revealed to the world in the place where the world had revealed it to him.

The producer had wanted to show the film on the railway tracks to signify “humanity at the crossroads,” and his people had conducted negotiations with the provincial government, village council, railways department, health and safety boards, and emergency services, but had been unable to convince them to allow this. So instead they had settled for The Place, the communal square in the centre of the village.

It took an hour to get through security. By the time Sami was on location, the scaffold and screen were set up. He knew that the screen was twenty by forty feet, but in situ it looked much bigger. The film would look awesome on that.

He scoped the area, paced it out, and ran through things in his head. VIPs were here near the trees, premium diners there near the fountain, ordinary ticket holders on the terrace, and press near the bar.

Hang on! The VIPs would get the same view as everybody else. That wasn’t right. He had been told that VIPs must get the best view. He would have to move the screen, maybe angle it a little towards them. He called over a technician.

The technician said, “Look pal, it’s all set up. It will be tricky to move it. Why don’t we just leave it there?”

Sami felt he had no option. “I’m afraid we have to move it.”

“But isn’t this film called HUMANITY? Why don’t we give everyone an equal view?”

Cinema is a cultural artefact. By exploiting the universal power of visual communication, it is used for entertainment, education and indoctrination. Individual images are shown rapidly, creating the illusion of motion. One cannot see their flickering due to an effect called persistence of vision, wherein the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after its source has been removed. Thus, things persist, whether we like it or not. One such thing is social privilege.

Sami said, “We need to move the screen for the VIPs. Can you please call the rest of the crew.”