Archive for screen

Bright Brown Eyes

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by javedbabar

There was half an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Its celebrated auteur had eschewed London, Mumbai and New York in favour of Lucerne, where the idea for the film had first come to him while mountain climbing.

Local project manager Sami had been asked to run through everything with the General Manager prior to doors opening. He hadn’t been able to locate him yet and the screening time was drawing near.

He asked the projectionist, “Have you seen the General Manager around?”

“Ah, The General. He was here this afternoon when I was setting up. I’m not sure where he’s gone.”

“Why do you call him The General?” asked Sami. “Is he a tough guy?”

“Actually, no. Quite the opposite, but I know he is an ex-military man. He led tough campaigns in Asia, and fought in brutal African wars. You wouldn’t think so though.”

This made Sami think of the ancient Indian king Asoka, who renounced bloodshed and became an advocate of non-violence, truth and tolerance instead. Sumerian king Gilgamesh, said to be one-third human and two-thirds divine, also mended his vicious ways. If only such leaders had been studied in 20th century Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Russia and America, the world would now be a better place.

Sami located The General fifteen minutes before doors opened. He was a tall, well-built man with cropped red hair and eyes that seemed orange at first, but were in fact bright brown. Sami walked him around the site and showed him the screen, which had been stiffened to counter evening winds, projector, cabling, seating, ropes, poles and carpets. He ran through key timings and flows, and showed the required safety certificates.

The General was very friendly and calm. He made some minor comments, said, “Good job”, “Good stuff”, and “Good work”, and said he would be in his office if needed. The run through with him took under five minutes. Now that’s a guy who trusts people, thought Sami. I’ll bet his soldiers felt inspired.

There was an issue concerning wheelchair spaces. Sami had allocated five spaces, but a village official said there should be seven. It was too late to change seating layout now as doors were opening in less than ten minutes, but the village official insisted on the change.

Sami decided to get support from The General. After all, he was in charge here and had approved the plan. He buzzed his office, and the door flew open immediately.

After a dark hallway, Sami came to a steel door which slid open silently. There was The General watching a bank of screens that covered an entire wall. Facial recognition technology identified people and followed them around. Where were these cameras hidden? Sami hadn’t noticed them anywhere in The Place.

On the adjacent wall were pinned scores of faces, a few of whom he recognized. Many had a black strike slashing across their faces. The General looked at Sami and said, “Two strikes and you’re out.”

His bright brown eyes lit up, very fiery, like when he had dropped bombs on restless provinces, and spearheaded “population control” projects. He had acted as consultant to many governments, and oil and water companies, who needed certain people to disappear. The General was interested in the film tonight, HUMANITY, but more so in its rumoured sequel, INHUMANITY. He hoped it would feature some of his special projects.

Redirection

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2012 by javedbabar

There was just an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Sami was pleased that everything was set. The screen and scaffold, projector, VIP and ordinary chairs, ropes and poles and red carpet were all in place.

There had been a light wind whispering all day. In the morning it rose from Mt Alba, the white mountain towering above the village, and then travelled along the valley to Mt Negra, the dark mountain at its far end. In the late afternoon it picked up and returned.

Sami noticed light reflecting around The Place, the communal space at the heart of the village where the screening would occur. Where was it coming from?

He looked around but nothing was moving, except, damn! The 20 x 40 ft screen was rippling, only slightly, but enough to notice.

This was a disaster! The director’s carefully composed shots would be distorted. The screening would be ruined.

The projectionist had noticed the rippling too. He called Sami over and said, “We need to do something about this. The film will look pretty bad otherwise.”

Sami asked, “Can you do something with the projector?” and then realized it was a stupid question. He could hardly project anti-ripples. They would have to adjust the scaffold and screen.

The projectionist discussed options with the crew. They decided they could improve the situation by tightening the screen. This meant men in hard hats, tied to ropes, climbing ladders, so for safety reasons they would have to block all access to The Place. Despite being local project manager, Sami was in practical terms the least useful person on site, and was asked to redirect members of the public.

He blocked the entrance with a road barrier and greeted people approaching with a smile. It was hard to get annoyed when someone had smiled at you already for no reason. This was a conflict resolution technique taught to him by Guru Baba.

A young woman approached and said, “Excuse me please, I am the owner of that sandwich shop,” – she pointed to a cute shop with red and white hanging baskets – “I need to check stock for tomorrow.”

“Can you enter from the back, Miss? I won’t be able to let you through here for half an hour.”

“The cops have closed off the back areas. I have to enter from the front.”

“I am sorry, but you will have to wait. Will you be able to do it later, or in the morning?”

“I guess I could do it in the morning. That’s a good idea. My boyfriend wakes me up anyway. He’s a health nut, and goes running at 5am. I may as well come then.”

A man in his fifties approached, sweating, and said, “I have to get to the hairdressers. It is urgent!”

“Do you have an appointment? No? Why is it urgent? It is only hair.” Sami’s hair was thinning and he didn’t care. “Hair today, gone tomorrow!”

The man thought about this for a moment and said, “You are right. Hair today, gone tomorrow.” He said it again and removed his wig, which had needed adjustment. A little more light reflected around The Place.

A man with Celtic tattoos said, “I need vitamins from the health shop.”

Sami said, “Which ones? Okay, A, C, E and K? Why don’t you eat spinach instead?”

An agitated woman ran up and said, “I need formula for my baby. She is hungry and I’ve run out.”

Sami gave her a hard hat and escorted her to the grocery store. He had learnt many lessons from Guru Baba. One of the most important was to know when to redirect people, and when to help them on their way.

Tombstoning

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by javedbabar

The projectionist had carefully aligned the projection tent and screen scaffold positions as soon as he had arrived. The axis between them was the key to perfect screening. The crew had followed his precise instructions, he had fine-tuned the image, and everything was set to go by 4 p.m. The global launch of the film HUMANITY was at 8 p.m. so he went off to get some early dinner.

When he returned, he sensed something was wrong. What had happened?

Someone had moved the damn screen!

The crew were smoking near the bins. He felt like cursing them aloud from where he was but instead decided to walk over, by which time he had calmed down.

“Excuse me. Were any of you involved in moving the screen?”

The crew looked at each other nervously, and one of them said, “Yes, that guy there,” – he pointed at Sami – “asked us to angle it towards the trees.”

“That guy!” He exploded. “Who the hell is he?”

The crew member replied, “I think he is the local…”

Before he had finished, the projectionist ran towards Sami. While still ten metres away, he shouted, “I am the projectionist. I laid out the location this morning. Did you tell the crew to shift the screen?”

Sami was surprised by his aggressive manner, but responded coolly. “Sorry, did I need to ask you first? I didn’t realize. We need to give the VIPs a good view. Some of them have paid a thousand dollars for a ticket. The screen position needed adjustment.”

Sami backed away to ease tension, but the projectionist stepped forward. “Do you know what will happen now? The projector and screen are misaligned. There will be a tombstone effect. I am not sure if I can correct it. How will your VIPs like that?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“Tombstoning – keystoning – haven’t you heard of that? There’s image distortion…”

“Look, if it’s a technical issue, there’s no point in explaining it to me. There’s nothing I can do about it. You’re the expert here. Can you please fix it?”

The projectionist grumbled and went off to make the necessary adjustments. Sami didn’t like bossing people about; he preferred to work in a harmonious team, but sometimes you had to push a little. Hadn’t the projectionist already returned to his tent and started working on a fix?

Five minutes later, the projector came to life. A huge orange OM symbol filled the screen. It was the first frame of the film, instantly recognizable from the global marketing campaign.

Sami knew that OM was a symbol of infinity and could be expressed in myriad forms, but he had to admit that something was wrong with it. There were hazy areas and its dimensions were distorted.

The projectionist called to him, “See what I mean now?”

“Yes I do. Can we move the projector?”

“No pal, we can’t. All the kit here is set up now. Can we move the screen, or the VIPs?”

“I’m afraid we can’t. The VIPs…”

The projectionist had worked on hundreds of jobs. He was a professional. He said, “Okay, I’ll do my best.”

He reviewed relationships, reprogrammed forms and adjusted parameters using his projection software. The image flashed, shook, stretched and settled. Within half an hour, it was much improved, though still a bit hazy and distorted.

Sami realized that he preferred it like this. If the objective of filmmaking was to bring things to life, was it not more realistic for a cosmic symbol to be at least partly unfathomable?

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.”

Dark Web

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , on April 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Jens’ computer crashed for the fourth time this week and was stuck on a black screen. “Piece of shit!” he said. “You’re going to the dump next week!” He tried all the tricks he could think of – pressing Esc, Ctrl-Alt-Del, Log Out, and F12 – but nothing worked. He should have gone to Future Shop like everyone else, rather than bought it from Seo. It had seemed like a great idea at the time, this local guy building a computer to your personal specification, rather than a Chinese child screwing together his 400th machine of the day. By the time you added tax, shipping, software, and extended warranty – all of which Seo offered “for free” – there was little price difference, but he was regretting his decision now. Piece of shit. And their relationship had soured since Jens began seeing Seo’s ex-wife Maggy.

The fan and hard disc were still spinning.  Despite the black screen, the computer was still working on something. Hints of lines, and then shapes, began to appear. It seemed like an early math class. Circles, triangles, and squares were followed by more complex shapes, like pentagons, hexagons, and septagons, all ghost shapes, faint glows on the dark page, enmeshing each other, absorbing, expanding, and fragmenting continuously. Very beautiful in a way, but not responsive to his commands. There was no going forward or back, just shapes unfolding. He decided to return the computer to Seo right now and tell him to fix it or else.

Seo took a while to answer the door. He often had a dozen machines hooked up, running a dozen programs each. “I just can’t abandon them,” he’d said before. “They’re like schoolchildren. Look away for a moment and there’s a pencil in someone’s eye.” When he appeared, rubbing his eyes, he said, “What’s up, my computer illiterate friend?”

“Your machine’s broken down again. I’m getting fed up with it. Can you please fix it once and for all, or return my money?”

“Mister Jens, don’t be so hasty. What makes you think it’s broken down?” There was the sarcasm, so apparent since he’d heard about Jens and Maggy.

“Shall I send it to Future Shop for checking? I’ll give you the bill.”

This proposal had a sobering effect. Seo said, “No no, of course not. I will take care of it. What seems to be the problem?”

“The problem seems to be that I’ve got a black screen with strange shapes appearing. That’s very pretty but not very useful.”

Seo fired up the laptop and pushed buttons. “Mmmm… You know it seems to be working fine. You are online…”

“What do you mean I’m online,” said Jens, scanning Seo’s roomful of junk – scattered circuit boards, computer shells, and coloured cables, plus beers and takeaway boxes. No wonder Maggy couldn’t bear it anymore. “If it’s working then why can’t I sign into my hotmail?”

“You’re in cipherspace, my friend – encrypted cyberspace.”

“What do you mean?” said Jens. This didn’t sound good. He shouldn’t have viewed those German websites while Maggy was away. They must have left their Deutsche Mark on his computer.

Seo said, “What we use daily is the visible web, but there’s lots more besides. The internet grows and decays in a chaotic way. The Dark Web, for example, picks up abandoned addresses, technical failures, and disputed domains. It uses them to divert traffic or mask illegal activity.”

Jens shuddered and said, “Is someone using my computer for illegal activity?”

“I’m not saying that. I’m not sure. But there’s also the Invisible Web – areas that can’t be indexed by standard search engines. It’s not really sinister, just uses alternative protocols. Many pages don’t exist until they are created dynamically – by a specific action or search – so there’s no way to find them.”

“Is that what the shapes are?” said Jens. “Information being formed?”

“I’m not sure yet. I think you’ve gone beyond the Dark and Invisible Webs, into the Darknet.” Seo sounded like a scary teacher.

“What’s the difference?” said Jens, clicking his fingers nervously.

“The Darknet consists of private file-sharing networks. Some of it is benign – just music and film swapping sites – but it’s also used by shadowy groups like political activists and drug dealers. And terrorists. How did you get into this area?”

“I didn’t get into any area,” said Jens. “I told you. My computer crashed. That’s why I brought it to you to fix.”

“Ok, I’ve reset the defaults and beefed up the filters. Sorry for the trouble.”

“That’s it? You’ve fixed it? Will it be ok now?”

“Do not worry, my friend. It won’t take you anywhere you don’t deserve to go. Sorry I mean want to go. Just stick to Google and you’ll be ok. Give my regards to Maggy.”

Jens was tired of computers and didn’t switch it on again that night. He was awoken at dawn by a loud banging on the door. Before he knew it a team of black uniformed men had burst through the door, guns trained upon him, all shouting. They immediately seized his laptop on which they later found anarchist, animal activist, and pro-life items; images of gang rape, child porn, and bestiality; criminal, extremist, and terrorist literature; and top secret political, financial, and telecomms documents. During his interrogation he told them about the Darkweb and how Seo had said that the problem was fixed. They said that no one called Seo lived in Lucerne. There was no record of him. They had however found an unidentified female body tonight with abusive messages from him on her phone. Where had Jens been this evening?