Saturday, May 28, 2005

Sphere Wars

number thirty-one

Star Wars at the Golf Ball, but my inner eight year old slept right through it. 1,322 words.

[NL]—Today we went to Monterrey to see la Guerra de las Galaxias: Episodio 3—la Venganza de los Sith. It had opened here at the same time that it opened in the US, and mostly I had not been that excited about seeing it after viewing the last two Episodes. Like many people my age, I am forced into being, to certain measure, a Star Wars geek just because I was the right age (when the original movie opened) for it to take root in the foundation my developing creativity.

No big deal. I saw Star Wars dozens of times in the theater because that is what the seven- and eight-year-olds I knew did. The movie opened when I was six years old, and its first run lasted until I was eight. From first grade until High School, it is easier to add up the time a Star Wars movie was not at a theater near me. I know the names of all the ships and characters and planets. When I see a scene from what has been retroactively re-christened Episode IV: A New Hope, I have a familiarity with what I am watching akin to my familiarity with natural numbers. To illustrate: when you ask me what place p has in the alphabet, I have to talk my way through it—“m, n, o, p, q”—but I know exactly, without thought, where fourteen falls in the numerical system, how it relates to the numbers before and after it, even how it relates to numbers significantly removed in the chain. If I were to say “q, m, i, e, a” it might take a little bit of figuring to realize that I have, starting with q, listed the alphabet backward skipping three letters between. Not so hard to identify the same pattern if rendered “17, 13, 9, 5,1”. Both are ordered systems we all grew up with, one is merely grasped far more abstractly, understood far more readily. This is a long tangent to illustrate the very simple, basic understanding that has developed between Star Wars and a culture of seven-year-olds who recognize it inside out. When I see that random scene from the first movie, I know where it comes in the in order. When I hear the lines, when I see the machines and planets, I know—surely as I know when I hear “fourteen”—exactly what is happening, what has happened, what will happen within the set comprising this film. I have no need to view Star Wars in order. It is that completely understood, its set is so thoroughly recognized.

For me, it was the first movie in the series that was this important. Star Wars opened on May 25th, 1977, and I saw it a few months later. I was watching this movie while I was still learning how to add numbers and spell two-syllable words. For many people younger than me, it was the second Episode that was special; even younger, the third. There are many, many people out there who are rendered geeks accidentally, as a trick of their development, by this series of movies.

But I moved along. While the original series of Episodes entrenched themselves into my development, I was still actually developing. Even by the time the third film was released I was starting to leave them behind. The third film is the one that that really caught in Sunshine’s childhood attention, she is a little under seven years younger than me. I cannot fathom what it would be like to be a newly seven- to ten-year-old kid watching them now, but I think it is possible that the wonder still holds, that there are still those today who are honestly and unapologetically enchanted by this galaxy far, far away.

In Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith opened subtitled in a mighty array of malls and VIP lounge theaters scattered across the countryside. My inner seven-year-old had finally gotten wind that something was going on, and slowly the disappointment and total exasperation I had been feeling regarding these movies was beginning to dissipate. Lucas’ inability to deliver a clean, coherent narrative devoid of gaudy faux realism and acres of talky high school civics theory had receded behind the strings and horns of the soundtrack in the film trailers, and I was ready to get in line. We chose to go see the movie in Monterrey’s Cinema Rio 70, a white geodesic sphere looming in the Centro district, incapable of being compared to anything but a Golf Ball.

This theater is great. Looking as if it is sunk nearly to its equator into the sand trap of Nuevo Leon, it stands about three stories with a curved concession stand forming a base that honestly probably keeps it from rolling away. On the inside, the geodesic panels have been sprayed matte black, and the huge screen faces not-too-uncomfortable wooden seats. The screen is hung the only way it is possible to hang a flat sheet inside a curve, and thus stands pretty far away form its backing wall. This backstage space is lit up like daylight before the movie starts, and seems to house a hell of a lot of speakers, because between the amplitude and the terraced (non-stadium) seating at the conjunction of all possible angles, the aural effect is just shockingly loud.

In the past, with hype films that I feel certain will prove to be disappointing, I have placed my faith in the event itself. Certainly, if the movie is to be a dumb gallery of CGI cameos interspersed with wooden philosophy, the best thing to do is gather up a number of friends and stand in line really late at night like an excited kid. Eat a lot of snacks, drink a lot of caffeine, rail and rail. It is not impossible to make a stupid movie into a pretty fun party, and still recapture a little forgiving youth in the process. In other words: fall for the hype. Why not? The movie costs the same anyway, right? It’s a sealed environment, like a space station. Let the candy smells and lights and posters invade a little with its carnival-quality. Let the nearby fans explain why all of this is so exciting. Let the inner geek take over a little in this isolated atmosphere. This had been my method for many, many animated summer-release extravaganzas like the Matrix movies, previous Star Wars Episodes, and whatever Jerry Bruckheimer is working on now. It might not make me like these films much better, but it makes me have fun while I am watching them.

Here in Monterrey, this was a difficult thing pull off. The theater is great, but scheduling time to see the movie, what with getting a cat and all the tea paper stuff, was predictably haphazard. We were thwarted a number of times before we finally managed to cram it in today. This left precious little time to get excited about such an incidental endeavor. Finally, there just were not any friends to drunkenly gather.

I don’t mean to sound sad. I had an okay time watching this movie, but it turned out to need every bit of the outside support I thought it would. I would have enjoyed it more, as meaningless as it is, had I enjoyed it with people who were very into it, and very excited about it. Sunshine and I were fairly apathetic. We went to the movie, that was all. No big deal. Afterwards, we went for a walk around Monterrey. I will in the long run remember this as going to a cool theater. That the ‘70’s gimmick building somehow helped to develop my understanding of the ‘70’s gimmick of my fanhood; all in a spherical home world far more like a golf ball than a space station.

Click here for a full movie review.

Cinema Rio 70 in Monterrey, NL. Photo © the Author

Quiet Reading Room

This is a quiet reading room. Often, I find it is uncomfortable to digest long tubes of columned text directly off a computer screen. This journal is dedicated to the collection, percolation, and ultimate integration of my personal experiences. Subjects that I want to examine and then talk about--sometimes talk a lot about--€”are presented here. This central content can tend to thousands of words, maybe millions. I was afraid that readers were leaving the presentation boggled, spinning, googly-eyed. Or perhaps when confronted with twenty-four inches, or yards, of monitor sprawl they were just giving up. I am not even certain that I have necessarily solved this inevitable content problem of modern information enjoyment, but here is what I have done.

After long and highly scientific routines manipulating double-blind control- and test-subjects, peer reviewed journal publications, and hours and hours of hands-on experimentation, I have crafted this quiet reading room. There is no scientific way to control the length of the articles I write, but careful handling can somewhat soothe the contextual presentation. In other words: I have dropped the traditional speculation about lexicon, and attacked the question of the matrix itself instead. Brilliant. After years of diligence what I eventually crafted is this reading room.

The walls are contoured to relax instead of constrain; the paper is made to soften instead of reflect. The light is dimmed--just so--€”to prevent strain, angled to prevent umbra, and color-coded to soften harsh red lights and deepen wimpy light reds. There is nothing I can do to control aural environment, but my recommendation is that it should be kept quiet. About ambient sound: these entries are probably best read as far as possible from emergency vehicles, preferably from beneath the muffler of a vintage fire fighter pilot's scarf, puffy old duvet, or snow that is still falling.

My theory is that the wide web world is filled with potent and material opportunities that are just too difficult to digest for many people to take part. Enjoyment of this stuff is regulated to the routines of crawlers and robots at the peril of humankind's peaceful future survival. In an attempt to delay this likely outcome: welcome to this quiet reading room. It is for people like you to relax, kick back, and hate my content for better reasons than the dizzying vertiginous specter of its lousy dpi presentation.

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